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FLDS on Dr. Phil show, part 1

Published January 26, 2012 9:26 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tuesday marked Day 2 of Dr. Phil's three-day polygamy bonanza. The hour was dedicated primarily to an interview with Willie Jessop, the former FLDS spokesman who's since condemned Warren Jeffs and his brothers in no uncertain terms and is throwing his support behind a rival prophet. It was actually a pretty good format for a conversation like this. Willie is a complicated guy and it's hard to pin him down — an open, taped interview works well to at least begin to get into some of this stuff. With that said, I thought both Willie and Dr. Phil talked in circles at times. For the most part, Dr. Phil was fair, but — as with the Dargers — there were a couple of moments he seemed to exploit for the camera. For example, there was a point where Willie first said that it's OK in society at large for a 19-year-old to get pregnant, especially if she's married. When pressed, he admitted "it would be disingenuous to say" that there were NOT occasions of younger girls getting pregnant. Then Dr. Phil then kind of freaked out, pointing to an image of Jeffs' 12-year-old victim and accusing Willie of saying SHE was a 19-year-old girl. That actually wasn't what Willie said. And that was the clip used in the promo.But later, Willie said that the men who have been excommunicated this year were thrown out because they wouldn't support Warren's actions, including taking underage brides. I'm not sure that's true across the board, and it doesn't exactly square with Willie's position that almost no one in the FLDS knew about Warren's misdeeds. If they didn't know, how could dozens and dozens disapprove and be kicked out?

Willie also said most of the young brides' parents were excommunicated and that's part of the "fiasco we're dealing with now." That may have happened in some cases, but certainly not all. Take the parents of the two victims in Warren's sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault convictions. The older victim's father wasn't excommunicated that I know of — he's in prison for his own underage marriage. The 12-year-old victim's father was only recently kicked out, and it wasn't because he questioned that marriage or the others he's been involved in. Look, I think it's great that Willie's out there answering these questions. I was the first to publish his stance that Warren is "morally indefensible." But he needs to figure out what his message is. If he wants to say, as he's said before, that Warren Jeffs is a pedophile and he does not represent the FLDS people, but many are too blindly faithful to see what he is and all members, including himself, need to take responsibility for what they've done to support him, then he should stick to it. And keep sticking to it.