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Adventures In Hagiography



Apparently, the now-shelved ESPN documentary about Mr. Michelle Rhee was every bit as appalling as you might expect:

Last Friday, ESPN pulled the media screener of the documentary, citing piracy concerns. But before it was pulled, I was able to see the film in its entirety. And despite the best efforts of ESPN’s PR apparatus to try to convince the media otherwise, the film goes well beyond portraying Kevin Johnson in a positive light. Down In The Valley amounts to a 77-minute political advertisement for Johnson, a man who in 1995 paid a 15-year-old over $230,000 to keep quiet after she alleged that he had sexually abused her.

Johnson’s more recent exploits, some as mayor, include intentionally bankrupting a historic black mayor’s conference, flagrant misuse of federal funds, and the installation within his city hall of paid staff members of an aggressively pro-charter school organization, who often failed to disclose their other employer. These revelations, as well as his long history of alleged sexual abuse, have been brought to the nation’s attention by the veteran sportswriter Dave McKenna, who has been meticulously detailing the dealings of Johnson for Deadspin. But even before that, thanks to the dogged reporting of the Sacramento Bee, a paper Johnson has battled with recently, ESPN had to be well aware that the protagonist of its film was not even close to the near-messianic figure he was being made out to be.

So this would appear to be the American counterpart to the recent autoerotic celebration of Sepp Blatter in film, which earned a robust $918 in its American run. (I’m pretty sure Gerard Depardieu just jumped in front of Michael Caine in the queue for the Indiscriminate Script Approval Hall of Fame.)  At least it was FIFA that took most of the bath for its vanity project.  Why ESPN wanted to invest in a hagiography of a terrible mayor and terrible person to tell the story of his “success” in pulling off the odious American grift of funneling large amounts of taxpayer dollars to plutocrats who own professional sports franchises is…less obvious.

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