News

Politics Over Principle

Imagine my shock the other Sunday when I picked up the Arizona Republic and there it was on the front page (above the fold, even): "Polygamist sect target of Arizona-Utah inquiry."

Arizona's largest daily newspaper was following John Dougherty's groundbreaking New Times stories on a Mormon polygamist sect in northern Arizona and southern Utah that has forced underage girls into sexual slavery for generations (this is Islam with an X rating).

The subhead read: "For decades, allegations of child abuse, forced marriage, incest and misuse of public money fell on deaf ears."

Finally, I thought, the Republic follows an obviously important story broken by New Times and gives it major treatment. (Trust me, this never happens; the Gannett-owned institutional daily would sooner cancel its Fall Foliage Guide or ax its 100 More Reasons to Read the Republic than chase news originally published in this loathsome rag.)

Looking at that prominent play and those headlines, you had to figure that reporters Joseph A. Reaves and Mark Shaffer must have broken new ground, come up with juicy new details, gotten a scoop. You know -- as we in the news business like to say -- advanced the story.

After all, high in the opening article, leading off a series of bulleted highlights, we're told (20th Century Fox music please!): "The Arizona Republic has found" that young men are forced out of the fundamentalist Mormon communities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, to pave the way for old men to marry multiple teenage brides. A sidebar on same accompanied the page-one piece.

Of course -- since Dougherty had reported that very information ad infinitum back on March 13 -- I started scanning the Republic for acknowledgement that we'd been the first news medium to hugely examine the sexual and financial abuses of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or FLDS) based in Colorado City.

Shazam, it wasn't there!

But, truth be told, we at New Times were ecstatic that the Republic published its takeoff on Dougherty's work. The more exposure this problem gets, the greater the likelihood that our head-in-the-dust governor/former attorney general will strike a match under state law enforcement to bust the child-raping deadbeat dads in the polygamous society north of the Grand Canyon.

Come on, folks, Governor Janet Napolitano's supposed to be a feminist, but about all she's done to prove it is get Squaw taken off a mountain and the 51 freeway so it could be renamed for a Native American woman who made a wrong turn in Iraq and got killed.

Oh, I almost forgot, she's also pushing for state Child Protective Services reforms, but only after discovering 31 dead kids, many of whose cases she should have dealt with as attorney general.

On the polygamy front, Governor, try getting in touch with your inner public-servant self and stop worrying about whether powerful Mormons in the state might scuttle your political career. I'm saying, start acting like you give a damn about the sexual abuse of underage girls, not to mention the rifling of public coffers to support the rampant practice in Polyg Land (almost every gigantic fundamentalist family in Colorado City's on relief; there are no jobs up there to speak of, except ones funded by Arizona taxpayers and the federal government).

It's hard to figure what Napolitano hopes to gain by keeping her perm down. No self-respecting Mormon in the Legislature, Mesa or elsewhere is going to support a Bill Clinton in Janet Reno clothing anyhow.

But back to the Republic for a minute. If its editors had half a brain, they'd banish Reaves and Shaffer to the Buckeye bureau for failing to turn up even a scrap of important new information. The duo regurgitated in their clip-job (a month or two in the making) that attorneys general in both Utah and Arizona are looking into FLDS members' misuse of public school funds and alleged welfare fraud. But if you want to find out what all that's actually about, you'll have to check out New Times' Polygamy in Arizona series, because there's not an iota of elaboration on it in the Republic. Next time, guys, you've got my permission to publish our Web site address, www.phoenixnewtimes.com, so that Republic readers can figure out what in the hell you're talking about.

I could go on about how too many of the victims telling horror stories in the Republic article had already been profiled in our pages, but I'll just say this: Reaves and Shaffer puckered up to Governor Napolitano and Attorney General Terry Goddard by insinuating that the state's taking bold action against the criminals in the fundamentalist Mormon enclave. It hasn't.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has.

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Rick Barrs
Contact: Rick Barrs