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Many perceive Michael Jackson as the most tragic figure in his trial for molestation – an immensely talented performer whom, even if he ends up being acquitted, squandered the precious gifts God gave him in a profligate and selfish life and destroyed his life and career. But Michael’s reputation was in tatters well before the trial. In truth, the ones who have most suffered in this ugly spectacle are America’s women and mothers.

Just when you thought that respect for women had hit a nadir and could not sink any lower, along comes a new stereotype – the mother as pimp.

My new book, “Hating Women: America’s Hostile Campaign Against the Fairer Sex,” makes the point that women are portrayed in the most degrading way in American culture, either as greedy golddiggers, brainless bimbos or publicity-seeking prostitutes. And with approximately 70 percent of the Internet devoted to pornography and 40 percent of America’s teenage girls wearing thongs to school, the sexual exploitation of women has never been greater.

But perhaps the most malevolent modern stereotype of all is the portrayal of women as lacking any maternal instinct, having no real feelings for children, being far more interested in fame than in family and in money over marriage. Indeed, in TV shows like “The Bachelor” and movies like “Mean Girls,” women and girls are portrayed as lacking any kind of nurturing instinct. They are cutthroats who go after each other with a viciousness that was once thought to be the purview of men.

Even so, no one has suggested that women have sunk so low that they would prostitute their own sons in order to benefit from proximity to a superstar. Until now.

That is the conclusion one derives from the bone-chilling testimony of the mother of Michael’s 1993 accuser, who told of allowing her son to spend more than 30 nights in the same bed as Michael Jackson as the singer showered her with gifts and cash. Yes, she had her misgivings about allowing her son to repeatedly share a bed with a 34-year-old man. But every time a doubt arose, Michael would present her with another gift certificate to buy some dresses and the doubts would disappear.

In most criminal court cases, there is a victim and a culprit – a party who is innocent and a party who is guilty. The Scott Peterson case is a classic example, with a guilty husband who murdered an innocent wife.

Not so in the Michael Jackson case. One of the reasons that this is the ugliest trial in memory is that here everyone is guilty. Michael Jackson may be the one on trial for molestation, but equally culpable are the mothers who are testifying in this case that Michael molested their children. What were they doing allowing their kids to be alone with an adult at night in his bedroom? Even if Michael is not a molester – and I pray that he is not – isn’t the proper place for a child to always be with his or her parents? Isn’t the foremost role of a parent to be a guardian?

America has to wake up to the crisis of its own soul-lessness. The pursuit of money and celebrity has crossed a hellish Rubicon when we are prepared to use our own children as the means by which to obtain it. In the past, we spoke of people being prepared to sell their souls to the devil in exchange for material benefit. But even one’s soul was not as precious as one’s children. No, our kids were sacrosanct and we protected them from our most evil designs.

In the buildup to Prince Charles’ recent marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles, many jokes were told about her former husband Andrew “laying down his wife for his country,” as he allegedly turned a blind eye to his wife’s long relationship with Charles during the many years of their marriage. Indeed, traditional tales of European royalty often include husbands allowing their wives to serve as mistresses to the crown in exchange for the husband’s social advance. But who has ever heard of prostituting one’s children? Is nothing sacred in America?

I do not seek to judge the mothers in question. Lord knows, in their own mind they had their reasons and probably believed that nothing untoward would happen. The real indictment, however, is against a culture that is so corrupting its constituents that it is placing expensive clothing and tickets to red-carpet events even above one’s own children.

Is this really happening to our women? If even mothers are being ruined by the all-out pursuit of cash and fame, then who will rescue the men? Women have domesticated men, civilized them, taught them the lasting joys of family and children over the ephemeral pursuits of power and riches. But it seems that in our day women have allowed themselves to be so sullied by shallow values that they are becoming complicity in their own degradation as they run to take off their clothes in order to sell an album or get on television.

Should we not be shocked that tens of thousands of women are flinging themselves at the porn industry? I am well aware of the fact that throughout time many women have literally prostituted themselves for money. But surely we would expect more noble choices in an era where endless respectable opportunities are open to women, as they are today.

Should it not shake us to our very core that a disreputable ignoramus like Paris Hilton is the most famous woman in America or that Madonna is arguably the most famous woman in the world? Has the feminist dream of women being taken seriously for their minds turned into a crude nightmare of sleaze and opportunism?

The only possible redemption from the awful grip that the Michael Jackson trial has on this great nation is the morality lesson that can be adduced by all who follow this tragic saga of the consequences to men and women alike when they pursue unbridled fame and are prepared to sacrifice their most cherished possessions in order to obtain it.

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