Rohter Rides to Obama's Defense on "Distorted...Discredited" Sex-Ed Charges

Reporter Larry Rohter put on his fact-checking hat for his Thursday "Check Point" feature, and once again defended Barack Obama from what he considered a "seriously" distorted attack, this time on sex education proposals for kindergarten students that Obama supported as an Illinois legislator. The headlinemade no room for niceties: "Ad On Sex Education Distorts Obama Policy."

Rohter has made a habit of knee-jerk defenses of Obama against "misleading" McCain ads.

By contrast, Rohter the reporter found no controversy in Joe Biden's controversial comments about stem-cell research on Tuesday, in which he implied such research could help cure Down Syndrome, an advance not even its most optimistic supporters claim.

From Rohter's "Check Point" on Obama's sex-ed plans:

Escalating its efforts to portray Senator Barack Obama as a candidate whose values fall outside the mainstream, the campaign of Senator John McCain on Tuesday unveiled a new television advertisement claiming that Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, favors "comprehensive sex education" for kindergarten students.

"Learning about sex before learning to read?" the narrator asks in the 30-second advertisement, which the campaign says will be shown in battleground states and on national cable. The commercial also asserts that a sex-education bill introduced in Illinois, which Mr. Obama did not sponsor and which never became law, is his "one accomplishment" in the field of education.

Both sets of accusations, however, seriously distort the record....In referring to the sex-education bill, the McCain campaign is largely recycling old and discredited accusations made against Mr. Obama by Alan Keyes in their 2004 Senate race. At that time, Mr. Obama stated that he understood the main objective of the legislation, as it pertained to kindergarteners, to be to teach them how to defend themselves against sexual predators.

Is that sex education or self-defense?

It is a misstatement of the bill's purpose, therefore, to maintain, as the McCain campaign advertisement does, that Mr. Obama favored conventional sex education as a policy for 5-year-olds. Under the Illinois proposal, "medically accurate" education about more complicated topics, including intercourse, contraception and homosexuality, would have been reserved for older students in higher grades.

The advertisement, then, also misrepresents what the bill meant by "comprehensive." The instruction the bill required was comprehensive in that it called for a curriculum that went from kindergarten and through high school, not in the sense that kindergarteners would have been fully exposed to the entire gamut of sex-related issues.