Accusations That Gov. Sarah Palin Charged Victims for Rape Kits Proven False

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 24, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Accusations That Gov. Sarah Palin Charged Victims for Rape Kits Proven False

by Warner Todd Huston
September 24, 2008 Note: Warner Todd Huston is an editorial columnist whose work is featured on numerous web sites. He has also written for several history magazines, and appears in the new book "Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture." This article was originally featured in Newsbusters, the web site of the Media Research Center.

At least since September 8 the extreme left has been pushing a lie that Governor, then Mayor, Sarah Palin “charged rape victims for rape kits” performed upon them in the Alaskan town of Wasilla.

The charge stems from a May 22, 2000 article in the local Wasilla paper The Frontiersman and has been spun from a comment made by the Wasilla Police Chief. This comment was somehow made into a Sarah Palin policy.

Evidence of the incident, though, shows no involvement by Palin at all. Still, many Old Media outlets continue to keep illegitimately linking this rape kit billing claim to Sarah Palin, even though the truth is easily discovered.

As mentioned, first up was The Frontiersman story from 2000.

In that story Police Chief Fannon was quoted as standing against legislation that would force local municipalities to pick up the costs of rape kits being performed. In the interview Fannon said that, upon conviction, he favored the criminals being charged for the costs.

The story mentions that Fannon claimed that at the time Wasilla did have a policy that rape victims’ insurance would be charged for the kits being performed but there was no mention that victims themselves were charged and no claim that any ever were.

It should be pointed out that The Frontiersman is the local Wasilla paper, so, consequently, the story did not mention what the policy was in any other Alaskan city outside the area the paper covers other than to say that “most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams.” This last phrase has been focused on by Palin’s detractors and spun from “some municipalities” into “all” (except Wasilla) and presented as some sort of proof that she hates rape victims.

After Palin was picked to be VP, on September 8, a blog called Americablog found the old story and brought it up as evidence of “a rather nasty window into Sarah Palin.” Americablog is run by a man named John Aravosis, a Democratic strategist, sometimes gay activist, and Washington D.C. lawyer who once worked for Alaska Senator Ted Steven before he, Aravosis, formally switched to the Democratic Party.

Later that day The Daily Kos also picked it up and from here it began to morph even further adding false claims to the story.

In one of those additions to the story, Kos blogger Steven R claimed that Palin hired Police Chief Fannon because he was in favor of charging rape victims for rape kits. Steven R said he was “Pro-Charging Rape Victims for their OWN TESTS!!!” (bold in original). I cannot find this claim anywhere prior to the meme being picked up by the Old Media echoing this Kos diarist.

According to the Uniform Crime Reports for Wasilla, up until 2000 only one rape had been reported to police in Wasilla.

The Kos diarist tried to claim that one rape reported equalled one rape conviction alleging that all the “other” rapes were not convicted. But the report clearly says that it was one rape reported not one rape convicted. The Daily Kos Diarist was trying to make it seem as if there were all sorts of rapes going on that weren’t being reported and, presumably, all sorts of victims being charged for rape kits.

In any case, from here the Old Media began to pick up the charge that Palin had put in place or at least agreed with this charging of victims policy. On September 12, for instance, The L.A. Times repeated the charge.

When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, the city billed sexual assault victims and their insurance companies for the cost of rape kits and forensic examinations.

The L.A. Times also helped further the warped claim that made it seem that the only Alaskan town that charged victims for rape kits was Palin’s Wasilla.

Then-Gov. Tony Knowles said Thursday that Wasilla was unique in the state in charging rape victims for costs incurred by law enforcement in trying to solve the crime.

This charge then began to appear in all sorts of opinion columns, blogs and in the comments sections of many of the Palin stories in papers all across the country.

On September 21, the Chicago Tribune repeated the tale, as well. The Chi Trib tried to spin this tale into one that made Palin notorious in the Alaska State Legislature over the practice.

While she was mayor of Wasilla, her town was the only one in Alaska that required rape victims to pay for their own forensic tests. Charging victims for the “rape kits” necessary to collect evidence and convict sexual predators was a “cost-cutting” measure that continued until complaints about her administration’s policy prompted the Alaska State Legislature to pass a bill that banned this anti-victim practice statewide.

On September 22, it was CNN’s turn to highlight the charge. CNN also pushed the false idea that out of all of Alaska’s towns only Wasilla insisted on perpetrating this policy quoting former Democratic State Rep. Eric Croft to that effect.

Former state Rep. Eric Croft, a Democrat, sponsored a state law requiring cities to provide the examinations free of charge to victims. He said the only ongoing resistance he met was from Wasilla, where Palin was mayor from 1996 to 2002.

Farther down in the story, CNN does reveal that there are no records and no proof that Palin ever even knew about this charging the victim policy. CNN also finally mentions that Wasilla wasn’t the only town in Alaska that had this policy.

Many other papers also mention that Palin charged victims for their own rape kits. Papers such as Denver Daily and Philadelphia Weekly, for instance. There are far more than the few I mention here.

So, the impression all these stories leave us with is that the town of Wasilla was a major impediment to passage of a bill in the state legislature that would end the policy of charging rape victims for their own rape kits being administered.

We are told that “Palin charged rape victims” and we are told that she hired a new police chief because he also wanted to charge victims. One would think that if all this were true, Palin would have been all over Alaska’s news in the year 2000 because of it.

But, in reality, none of these charges can be found and Jim Geraghty of NRO has done a little investigative work to prove it.

Geraghty looked to see how often Wasilla and Palin were mentioned in the debates about the rape kit bill. But he finds that there is not one mention of the town of Wasilla in the hearings over the bill. Far from being the mayor that had “complaints about her administration’s policy” (as the Chi Trib says) being the one forcing the state legislature to pass the law, Wasilla is not mentioned at all in the debates about the bill.

The Democratic sponsor of the legislation, Eric Croft, told USA Today recently that “the law was aimed in part at Wasilla, where now-Gov. Sarah Palin was mayor.” Yet in six committee meetings, Wasilla was never mentioned, even when the discussion turned to the specific topic of where victims were being charged.

Geraghty also could not find a single instance of a rape victim ever having been charged for her own rape kit.

To clarify: In preparation to attend a hearing and support the bill, one of the state’s top law-enforcement officials found no case of a rape victim ever being charged. And roughly a month after 30 Democratic lawyers, investigators, and opposition researchers, not to mention reporters from every major news agency in the country, landed in Alaska, we still have no instances to consider.

Additionally, Geraghty found that it was the hospitals in Alaska, not the police agencies, that were passing the bills on to the victims’ insurance companies. And the idea that only Wasilla had such a policy is blasted out of the water by Geraghty who notes that Juneau also had the same policy of charging rape victims for their rape kits.

In fact, at a Finance Committee hearing, Representative Gail Phillips (R., Homer) “read for the record, a statement from a woman in Juneau who had experienced the charges as indicated.” Compare Juneau (population 30,711 in 2000) to Wasilla (population 5,469).

On top of all of that, there are no stories prior to Sarah Palin being offered the billet as VP by John McCain that makes the claim that Palin was informed of or involved in this policy of charging rape victims for rape kits. And, since there was only one rape reported in the city between 1996 and 2000 when the story first came to the papers, it’s no wonder she wasn’t aware of the policy. When would it ever have come up? Does anyone think that any given mayor of any American town is fully cognizant of every single policy or law in their city, especially if it is a law not in use because of a lack of situations to bring it to light?

For her part, Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella has said that the governor “does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test.”

In the end, it seems that this story is a wild exaggeration about Palin’s role in this policy. There is no proof that she ever knew about the policy until long after the situation hit the news, it is untrue that her town was “unique” in blocking the measure, no evidence that she, herself, was notorious for the policy, and no proof that any victims were ever charged for rape kits. In fact, according to the Uniform Crime Report there were only 5 rapes reported in the 6 years she was mayor of Wasilla and four of those happened after the state law in question was passed.

In fact, this whole thing looks like another case where the media has been programmed by the nutroots and Democratic operatives.

Yet, the media still repeatedly bring this false charge up at every possible opportunity. Geraghty is right. The Old Media and the Obama campaign owes Palin an apology.

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