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Have They No Shame?
by Timothy Rollins, The American Partisan
30 March 2003

With a $1.2 million home in Salt Lake City's Federal Heights section, it's not as if the Smarts needed money from People Magazine.  If you ask me, I call it greed.

You knew it was going to happen -- you just knew. After saying the family needed their 'private time' -- which they justifiably did -- you knew that somewhere, somehow, the Smart family (right) was going to go public with their story. But did they go on FOX Television's Newsmagazine or ABC's 20/20? What about 48 Hours on CBS or Dateline on NBC? After all, any of these shows would have gladly given the family the full hour, or even a two-hour special to tell their story of what Elizabeth went through while in nine months of captivity under the influence of Brian David Mitchell and his fellow nutcase Wanda Barzee, Stockholm Syndrome and all.

But no, television was not the avenue for them. Why? Because they found out something I've long known. As one who is called upon to offer expert analysis on television and radio myself, the Smarts discovered what I learned, in that television does not pay for stories like these -- especially if these stories can benefit others by helping them take a few extra precautions that can in turn help save lives -- including their own. Print media, on the other hand, does pay, especially the glossy magazines with their huge advertising budgets and even larger subscriber bases. Then you factor in the over-the-counter sales to customers in the checkout lanes of supermarkets, and you have yourself a sizeable pie, of which I'm sure the Smarts (and/or their lawyers) negotiated themselves a nice slice of. Perhaps that is why they sold the print rights to PEOPLE in the first place.
 
If you ask me, I call it greed. It's not like they need the money. With a $1.2 million home in the Federal Heights section of Salt Lake City (I've been there - it's a REALLY NICE neighborhood), the family undoubtedly already either has health insurance most Americans only dream of, or existing funds to pay for whatever counseling Elizabeth will need in the days, weeks and months ahead. And the closer I look at the article, the less it seems to focus on Elizabeth's ordeal in captivity as its real center and I get an even more sickening the feeling that the ordeal Elizabeth has suffered hasn't really ended, but only changed gears.
 
From the ruthlessness of being taken hostage by an obviously deranged kidnapper with delusions of grandeur (Mitchell thought he was a prophet), to now being callously exploited/pimped by her parents for commercial gain (People Magazine article, book deals, movie of the week, etc.), one can never know what will come next.
 
Remember Samantha Smith? In 1983, the young lady from Maine sent then-Soviet leader Yuri Andropov a letter asking him why he wanted to conquer the world -- or at least the United States. Touched by the genuineness of her letter, Andropov replied that wasn't his intent and invited her and her family to visit him in Moscow. The result was not only overnight fame, but a trip to Hollywood where she did a guest spot on ABC's "Charles in Charge," which in turn led to a starring role on "Lime Street," some episodes of which were completed but never aired due to her death in an August 1985 plane crash in Maine while on a break during filming.
 
Could Mommie and Daddy Dearest be setting their little girl up in the vain hopes of making her the next disposable child star? A cross between Samantha Smith and Macaulay Culkin of sorts? Let's hope not. I most certainly pray this is not the case here, as no child should be made to endure two major traumas. For while it does not sound like Elizabeth ran away from home but was indeed forcibly kidnapped, it does sound like there are a lot of holes in the conflicting stories that are coming out of the Smart compound -- enough to drive a Mack truck through and certainly more holes than you would find in a Steven Spielberg script.
 
The more I look at Ed and Lois Smart, what I see in increasing doses smacks more of opportunism than anything else. Had that been my child (I have three children 21 to 7), the last thing I would be doing is talking to People Magazine -- and I could desperately use the money. The Smarts sure as hell don't need the bucks and neither does Elizabeth if that's the excuse they're offering.
 
Greed. Opportunism. Exploitation. Pimping. Call it what you want.
 
All I know is that it makes me want to puke.
 

UPDATE: On April 21st, I received a letter from Chris Thomas, the Smart family spokesperson indicating that at no time was there any compensation received for the story in PEOPLE magazine, and that the interviews given on television were limited in scope and nature, and that the parents had not been personally interviewed themselves for that story. In addition, other family members who had been interviewed were also not compensated. A full copy of that letter can be viewed in Reader's Corner, for which I thank both Mr. Thomas and the Smart family for the clarification they offered.

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