“I told you so” just doesn’t seem emphatic enough right now.
More than a month ago, in the column “Subway dumped him – so should his friends,” I wrote of the predicament in which former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle found himself. Fogle’s home was raided by the FBI in the wake of revelations that Russell Taylor, who headed Fogle’s charity foundation for obese children, was allegedly found in possession of hundreds of child porn videos. The government set up portable evidence trailers in Fogle’s driveway and removed electronic equipment from his home. It looked bad, if only because the operation seemed so major. This was not a few agents showing up at Fogle’s home to ask him questions about Fogle’s foundation and Russell Taylor (who tried to kill himself).
At the time, I pointed out that downloading child pornography is a uniquely technological crime. I called it a crime of the modern era, one that existed before the Internet but which has grown like a cancer thanks to the World Wide Web. Most of the people guilty of possessing and disseminating child pornography aren’t themselves raping children and filming it (though some of them are, and some of them will eventually do so, as Jared Fogle has reportedly admitted to doing). They’re downloading and trading files, something the Web and file-sharing technologies make possible to such wide extent that our government can never find and prosecute it all.
It’s also a crime that is easy to hide. Right now, I guarantee that you know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who is secretly downloading this filth. You may never learn of it, because these creeps are adept at hiding their crimes. Such was the case of Jared Fogle, who became publicly known and financially very wealthy … all while hiding this horrific and disgusting sexual interest in children.
Because you can never know who is doing something like this, and because the anonymity and remove afforded by your computer and its Internet connection insulates child porn purveyors from both discovery of their crimes and the consequences of their actions, our own response to accusations of child porn must be swift and decisive. In July I wrote that Fogle – who at the time had been “suspended” by Subway but charged with no crime – should be shunned immediately by family and friends unless and until he could be exonerated.
The reaction by readers of this column was a surprising one. To me, it seems only a matter of common sense to cut all contact with someone accused of downloading child pornography. Those of you who are parents should be especially swift to do so. Yet the comments on that column were astoundingly defensive where Fogle’s situation was concerned.
“I emphatically disagree with this article,” wrote one reader. “I don’t know this guy or any of the circumstances, but I refuse to accept the argument that, because the Feds raided his home, he MUST be guilty. That is spurious reasoning and the perfect way to ensure the enslavement of America.”
“The biggest problem I see with this piece,” wrote another, “is the assumption of guilt by association. It is entirely possible that Fogle was caught up in this just [as] a standard matter of the investigation, and it is equally possible that nothing will come of it. Mr. Elmore’s suggestion that Fogle should be cut off completely by anyone and everyone who knows him takes presumption of innocence and tosses it out the nearest convenient window.”
To these defenders of Jared Fogle, I posed a simple question: Would you let Jared Fogle babysit your children? Only the most dishonest of sophists (or the most depraved of parents) would answer “yes” to such a question. Where child pornography is considered, when the police raid your home, they do so on the basis of evidence – presumably enough evidence to justify the operation. The fact that the FBI parked evidence trucks on Jared Fogle’s lawn wasn’t enough to proclaim him guilty, no, but was certainly sufficient cause for anyone in Fogle’s life to stay well clear of him until the results of the investigation were known.
“Give it up, Phil,” wrote one particularly misguided reader. “You’ve written some insightful stuff, but this one’s not worth defending. You’re entitled to your opinion, but you seem to be expending way too much energy defending a point that most sane people today cannot concede.”
And now Jared Fogle is taking a plea deal.
Wait, what’s that? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the deafening sound of how right I was. Multiple news outlets reported Tuesday that Fogle is taking a plea deal on child pornography charges. Given that Fogle has more than enough money to afford a lawyer to fight for him, the speed with which he reportedly copped a plea implies more than his guilt. It means that he was caught so dead to rights that he rushed to control the damage rather than insist on his innocence.
In the interim, multiple reports emerged that painted Fogle as a less than decent person. He supposedly told a former Florida journalist that he found middle-school girls sexually desirable (a report Fogle’s attorney called a “fabrication”) and is known to have been running a pornography rental business in college. He is, to put it bluntly, a creepy loser. There are plenty of Americans who have always thought so, but now we know why.
“Two words describe this column,” wrote a reader of my piece in July. “Tabloid journalism.” Another wrote, “Mr. Elmore seems to already have found the man guilty … with limited or no details, as of yet.” Still another wrote angrily, “It is plainly obvious that Mr. Elmore believes that all you need to wreck somebody’s life is to accuse them of some sexual crime against children. … Because if the accusation turns out to be patently false, the accuser is immune from being held accountable.”
It’s been said that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. In Fogle’s case there was ample reason to be wary of him. It’s tragic for Fogle’s friends and family that there were, evidently, plentiful flames in this case – but Jared Fogle has only himself to blame for setting his life ablaze.
Media wishing to interview Phil Elmore, please contact [email protected].