Enforcement of federal obscenity laws dropped 86% under Clinton Administration

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NEW YORK (Oct. 19, 1998): U.S. Attorneys last year began only six prosecutions in which Federal obscenity violations were the lead charge, down from 42 in 1992, a decline of 86% during the Clinton administration. Out of 93 U.S. Attorneys nationwide, only four initiated a prosecution in which the lead charge was a violation of the Federal obscenity laws.

Morality in Media has posted the 1993-1997 Federal obscenity law enforcement record of every U.S. Attorney on its World Wide Web site and is asking people to contact their U.S. Senators to urge an inquiry into the record of the U.S. Attorneys in their states. The URL is http://www.moralityinmedia.org/usatylis.htm.

Mr. Clinton pledged “aggressive enforcement” of the obscenity laws when he ran for election in 1992, but by 1996 his failure to deliver on that pledge earned him the re-election endorsement of the porn movie trade paper Adult Video News, which cited his “hands-nearly-off porn” policy. And recently, a leading porn video distributor called President Clinton “a total supporter of the [porn video] industry … he’s always been on our team.” (TV Guide, Sept. 28).

“The single most important reason that pornography is booming today is the scandalously poor record of Federal obscenity law enforcement,” said Robert W. Peters, president of Morality in Media. “This is the Clinton failure that hurts America far more than the Monica Lewinsky affair.”

Justice Department data obtained by Morality in Media from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University show that the 93 U.S. Attorneys around the country initiated 223 lead-charge obscenity prosecutions during President Bush’s four-year term but only 105 such prosecutions in the first five years of the Clinton administration as enforcement declined sharply. These are the yearly totals since President Clinton took office: 1993, 32 prosecutions; 1994, 27; 1995, 21; 1996, 19, and 1997, six.

The grass-roots letter-writing campaign calling for inquiries by members of the U.S. Senate is part of MIM’s 11th annual White Ribbon Against Pornography Campaign during Pornography Awareness Week, October 25 – November 1.

In his own letter to the Senators in August, Mr. Peters said, “Obscenity leads men into destructive sexual addictions, degrades women, ruins marriages, contributes to sexual crimes and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, and undermines morality. … the nationwide commercial distributors of obscenity have flooded your state with an illegal, injurious product, unimpeded by federal prosecutors. … The well being of [your state]’s families and children depends in significant part on a reversal of this policy of nonenforcement-of-federal-obscenity-laws.”

MORALITY IN MEDIA was established in 1962 by the late Father Morton A. Hill to combat obscenity and to uphold decency standards in the media. MIM maintains the National Obscenity Law Center, a clearinghouse of legal materials on obscenity law.

Author: Patrick McGrath   10/19/1998

The Numbers


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