If you’re here for the physics and not the politics, skip this entry. I wouldn’t blame you. It irritates me to read politics on science sites too, but with the election only about two months away it’s hard to resist the temptation. Here we go.
Neurotopia links to an article criticizing Sarah Palin. Nothing unusual. What raises an eyebrow is the contents of the criticism. In short, she’s being accused of making rape victims pay for their own rape kits. Here’s the news article from 2000, which mentions Wasilla in passing. Palin was mayor at the time.
Let’s see what the article actually says. Notice, contra Neurotopia, that it does not mention Palin at all. Nor does it mention tax cuts. It certainly doesn’t say that “[s]he justifies it as necessary to cut taxes”. That’s simply fabrication. This is what the article says in its entirely about Wasilla:
While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests. Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams. “In the past we’ve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just don’t want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer,” Fannon said. According to Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases. “Ultimately it is the criminal who should bear the burden of the added costs,” Fannon said.
The new law prevented departments from billing insurance: the departments bear responsibility themselves. The article says nothing to indicate that any actual victim was ever forced to pay money out of pocket. The only conceivable possibility is that there may have been cases for which insurance didn’t pay (the article provides no evidence of this), in which case the most likely scenario would be the department paying as in the city of Palmer. This could be easily checked by examining the individual cases: in the four years Palin was mayor before this law was passed, there were only five sexual assaults. [Update: See comments #46 and #47] It’s unclear how many (if any) of those investigations required rape kits. There is no evidence in the slightest than any of those five ever had to pay a cent, and this would be obvious and easy for the newspaper to have checked – and I’m sure the DNC’s team of operatives [UPDATE: This is disputed, though of course the DNC should investigate this.] would have turned up something better than this hit job if there were any such thing to find. It certainly would be sick and reprehensible if victims had to pay, but there is nothing at all indicating that such a thing happened. And even if the Police Chief turns out to have done something so horrible (again, no evidence), there’s nothing at all to indicate the mayor would have been aware of a detail of police procedure for a crime that happened about once a year. There’s no evidence that Palin was even aware that such a thing was even a possibility under the law. If any of those things were true, you’d think the governor who signed that law would have brought this up as an issue when Palin defeated him, after all. And when Palin was elected governor of Alaska, she never expressed any reservations at all about the law.
Now the law is something I wholly agree with. I bow to no one in my loathing of sex offenders. Prison is too good for them. And correspondingly, it is a very serious thing to level this kind of accusation in the teeth of evidence to the contrary. The entire case against her is ambiguous two word “when possible” phrase from one of her employees quoted in a 8-year-old local news article. From that, Palin – who again is not even in the article! – is being cast as a scenery-chewing Nurse Ratched villain. Seriously, gentlemen.
I understand Palin is not exactly the queen of popularity here at ScienceBlogs. But that is absolutely no excuse for promulgating this kind of desperate garbage.