NPR’s Cokie Roberts has joined the chorus of disapproval over celebrities and artists who rushed to defend Roman Polanski after the film director was arrested last week in Switzerland on a US-issued warrant.
“Roman Polanski is a criminal,” Roberts said on ABC’s This Week Sunday. “He raped and drugged and raped and sodomized a child, and then was a fugitive from justice. As far as I’m concerned, just take him out and shoot him.”
Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, who was also part of the roundtable discussion on This Week, pointed out that there have been allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in Polanski’s 1977 trial, in which Polanski admitted to raping and anally raping a 13-year-old girl during a party at Jack Nicholson’s house. Polanski fled the US before his sentencing.
But vanden Heuvel noted that none of the circumstances surrounding the Polanski case should excuse the 76-year-old director’s behavior.
“There should be no dual system of justice in this country. He should not be privileged because he’s a famous director or even because [he lost his mother in] the Holocaust,” she said.
An initial wave of support for Polanski among European politicians and US celebrities quickly fizzled in the face of public outrage over the defense of an admitted child rapist. The UK’s Guardian reported on Sunday:
The list of supporters giving Polanski their impassioned support read like a Who’s Who of the cream of the movie-making world. It included, among many others, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Harvey Weinstein, Pedro Almodóvar and Ethan Coen.
But rather than rallying mass public support for the beleaguered film-maker – director of such undoubted classics as Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist – they have provoked an extraordinary backlash.
Led by a handful of outspoken female voices, a rising tide of opinion has instead applauded Polanski’s arrest for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old back in 1977. They have turned the focus on the crime itself, calling the director an accused rapist who abused a child.
Questions have been raised about the timing of Polanski’s arrest by Swiss authorities. Polanski owns a chalet in Switzerland, and had frequently traveled to and from the country over the three decades he was a fugitive from US justice.
But on Sunday Switzerland’s justice minister said the government would have arrested him earlier, had they known he was on Swiss soil. “This time we knew that he would be coming,” Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said.
Other news reports reveal that Polanski had struck a $500,000 settlement in the 1990s with the victim of his professed crime, Samantha Geimer, though it appears he never made good on that agreement.
This video is from ABCNews.com, broadcast Oct. 4, 2009.