Left-wing "comedian" Al Franken got tripped up by some big fat lies this week. He's sorry he got caught, but smugly silent about making fun of countless American kids who have taken abstinence vows.
Thanks to Court TV's Smoking Gun Web site (www.thesmokinggun.com), we now know that the Saturday Night Live leftover abused his position as an "academic fellow" (now that's funny) at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy in a puerile attempt to trick Attorney General John Ashcroft into publicly sharing his personal experience with abstinence.
Franken urged Ashcroft to share his abstinence story for "a book about abstinence programs in our public schools entitled, 'Savin' It!'" (lie). He assured Ashcroft that the book would document how the Bush administration is "setting the right example for America's youth" (lie). And he breezily informed Ashcroft that he had already "received wonderful testimonies from HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, William J. Bennett, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Senator Rick Santorum, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice" (lie, lie, lie, lie, lie).
Franken sent the bogus solicitation to Ashcroft on Harvard's letterhead earlier this summer, without the Shorenstein Center's knowledge or approval. A few weeks later, Franken sent an apology to Ashcroft. In truth, Franken confessed, he deliberately deceived Ashcroft while trying to gather material for his "satirical" anti-conservative book being rushed to print this week, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right". Franken sheepishly informed Ashcroft that the book will contain "only one or two chapters dealing with abstinence-only education."
"My biggest regret is sending the letter on Shorenstein Center stationery," Franken sniveled. "I am very embarrassed to have put them in this awkward and difficult position, and I ask you not to hold it against the Center, the Kennedy School, or Harvard in general."
So Franken is remorseful about offending his high-minded liberal benefactors at Harvard, who supported his book "research" under the guise of "bridging the gap between journalists and scholars" and "helping the press improve its role in democracy." But he has nothing to say about thoughtlessly ridiculing a growing movement that promotes self-restraint, strong morals, fidelity and good health.
To the dismay of kiddie condom-pushers in Hollywood and the ivory tower, abstinence education programs such as Project Reality, True Love Waits and Virginity Rules are rapidly gaining popularity among American youth. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women have signed chastity pledges as part of both faith-based and secular programs. Celebrity role models include 2003 Miss America Erika Harold and basketball star A.C. Green.
Professor Franken will no doubt argue in his new book that abstinence programs have no scientific basis. As if the failed contraceptive-centric model of the past two decades does? A peer-reviewed Pediatrics journal showed that sex-ed programs "neither increased contraceptive use, nor reduced teenage pregnancy rates." A study of 23 school-based sex-education programs, published in the May/June 1994 issue of Public Health Reports, concluded much the same. More recently, a pro-sex education study found in 2001 that out of some 250 programs, only eight (a whopping 3 percent) purportedly reduced "sexual risk-taking, pregnancy, and childbearing among teens."
Another study published in the Journal of School Health noted that "while most adolescents know condoms provide one effective way to avoid HIV infection, less than half of sexually active adolescents ages 15-17 used condoms consistently." The annual failure rate for condoms used as birth control is about 10 percent for adults; the figure doubles for teenage users.
When all else fails, health officials celebrate the number of birth-control devices distributed to teens as the ultimate measure of efficacy. But this is like measuring the effectiveness of welfare programs by the number of checks passed out.
Ridiculing chaste young people and their abstinent role models as oddballs and prudes may score Franken a few points at Hollywood and Harvard cocktail parties. But if this intellectual poseur thinks he can improve democracy through nasty pranksterism and mockery, the only one he's kidding is himself.