Mike Watkiss: Confessions of an Ambulance Chaser

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Whatever happens to Warren Jeffs -- the media Is already guilty

Whatever happens to Warren Jeffs -- the media Is already guilty

Credit: AP

Washington County Sheriff officers and other Utah government officials remove items from the Hildale Fire Department after a warrant was served in behalf of Arizona officials April 6, 2010 in Hildale, Utah. Government agencies in twin polygamous communities along the Utah-Arizona border were served Tuesday with search warrants seeking evidence on suspected misuse of public funds, authorities said. (AP Photo/George Frey)

by Mike Watkiss

Bio | Email | Follow: @mikewatkiss3TV

azfamily.com

Posted on July 31, 2011 at 4:53 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 5 at 5:05 PM

SAN ANGELO, Texas - The story of Warren Jeffs and polygamy in America did not start when Texas Rangers raided the YFZ Ranch and it will not end with Mr. Jeffs'  trial here in San Angelo. The truth is, the history is long and the stories plentiful enough to fill-up libraries.

But listening to many of the talking heads on the networks and cable shows these days, you would think that they personally had just discovered this strange and secretive world through their own hard work and diligent investigation.

And that's shameful. Not only does it wildly embellish their roles in this long and twisted story for their own self-aggrandizing purposes, but I believe it also sort of gives everybody else a "freepass" for having not paid attention to this chronic and systematic abuse of  women and children that dates back right here in our own beloved country nearly two centuries.

The culpability and dereliction of duty of dozens, if not hundreds, of Utah and Arizona cops and elected officials over the years is even greater. Their lack of involvement and action constitutes nothing short of willful ignorance and, in many cases, outright complicity.  But that discussion for another day.

Of course, the media has "discovered"  this story periodically over the years and usually, I would argue, with negative results. The media sure did come charging in when Warren Jeffs was busted outside Las Vegas back in 2006 and then again when Texas cops raided Jeffs' 17-hundred-acre compound outside the little West Texas town of Eldorado in 2008.  But after the initial  "Oh My God--What is this place?--And look what cops have done" reaction; followed by the even bigger "Oh My God--look at all the kids the cops are taking out of there" response, the media then settled into it's traditional role in this story of being gullible and dumb.

It was at that point that the FLDS community, that has elevated lying to the outside world to an art form, rolled out a brilliant and sadly very effective media campaign. 

Suddenly teary-eyed women in pastel-colored prairie dresses were everywhere, crying and complaining bitterly about the big, bad  State of Texas taking way their children.  

Don't get me wrong,  I am certain that many of these women were genuinely heart-sick and terrribly concerned about the welfare of their kids.  But the truth is, a lot of these sweet looking ladies are some of the biggest villians in FLDS society--family enforcers who don't think twice about trotting their 12 or 13 year-old daughters--or the daughters of their sisterwives-- to the feett of the prophet and say "have at them."  

Are all of these women the products of the same abusive environment? Absolutely! But should that give them a "freepass" from responsibilty?  I know a lot of women who have "gotten out" and know that the practice of  plural, underage marriage is wrong.       

But let's face it, the FLDS media blitz worked. Reporters weren't interested in taking even a second to research the group's well documented history.  No, at that point, the only thing that mattered was getting "access" to the Ranch. 

I remember standing at the gates of the Ranch as network crews and producers from the Oprah Winfrey show and just about every other knucklehead with a pencil and a camera were being ushered through the gates by FLDS lawyers.  

One of those lawyers, a man named Jim Bradshaw, spotted me and said "not you pal."  

I think I'm the only reporter in the country that didn't get on to the Ranch in the aftermath of the raid.  But hey,  if I was that guy, I would not have invited me to their party either.  I would have asked questions that would have spoiled the sympathetic love-fest.  

Oprah was the worst. In Winfrey's much-hyped hour long sycophantic special, the toughest questions she asked were about the women's hair and dress. And amid this onslaught of sympathetic and simple-minded  coverage, Texas officials caved.  

Despite the strenuous opposition of many of the CPS case workers, who were actually handling the FLDS children, people who still believed the children should have remained in state custody--the state's bigwigs were embrassed. They wanted an out and they ordered the children be returned.  

A lot of people closest to this story and with the most knowledge believe the media sabotaged those children and the hard working case workers who were trying so desperately to help them.  I am definitely one of those people.  Because I think, in this story,  the media is totally guilty.

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