Bill Donohue sees double standard in Hollywood treatment of Polanski

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski


Hollywood celebrities’ sympathetic treatment of convicted statutory rapist Roman Polanski is evidence of a double standard, Catholic League president Bill Donohue has said. He contrasts the reaction to the filmmaker’s arrest with the outrage over clerical sexual abuse.

In 1977 filmmaker Roman Polanski pled guilty to having sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl in a plea bargain, which dropped more serious charges including the drugging and raping of the girl. He skipped bail and fled to Europe in 1978.

He was recently arrested in Switzerland on his way to accept an award for Lifetime Achievement at the Zurich Film Festival. The United States had issued an international warrant for his arrest in 2005.

Writing in a Tuesday press release, Donohue reported that the Zurich Film Festival jury displayed red badges reading “Free Polanski” while stars such as actress Debra Winger and filmmaker Woody Allen defended him.

“Whoopi Goldberg showed off her usual brilliance when she declared that Polanski’s crime ‘wasn’t rape-rape.’ No, only priests are guilty of real rape,” Donohue charged.

The Catholic League’s president also criticized photographer Otto Weisser’s description of the crime as “a little mistake.” Such crimes are only presented as a big mistake when priests commit them, Donohue said, railing against the double standard.

He also noted that the length of time since the assault, cited by Polanski defenders, was not a help to priests who faced accusations of alleged sexual abuse decades before.

“The Catholic League has long suspected that, in many quarters, the outrage over priestly sexual abuse has had more to do with the status of the accused than the crime itself,” Donohue commented. “Now the evidence is indisputable: a child can be drugged, penetrated and sodomized—and the guilty can cut and run—and still maintain hero status. Provided he is a celebrity.”

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