(The McMartin Pre-school Scandal - when in doubt, blame the Carter Administration)
It was labeled "Americas Dirty Little Secret", the result of allegations (later proved false) that wholesale child molesting was going on in, of all places, a Daycare Center. The trial and the bizarre proceedings surrounding the McMartin Pre-School Scandal went on for years, eventually ending in acquittal for the defendants. But what it did was create an awareness that yes, America did have a dirty little secret, and that the Reagan Administration was so busy slashing funds and programs it abandoned an entire segment of our population; children.
When the CBS News program Face The Nation did a feature on Child Molestation, based not only on the developing story around the McMartin scandal, but also on the recent disclosure that Senator Paula Hawkins (R-Florida) had been a victim of child molestation, the White House sent Margaret Heckler, then Secretary of Health and Human Services to perform damage control - not very convincingly.
Leslie Stahl (CBS News): “When the Administration originally cut funds in this area, we as a society were not really aware of the extent of this problem. Now it seems to be a problem everywhere, all across the country, cases are turning up every day. Is there any change in attitude that maybe some of these funds should be restored to treatment centers and prevention centers, those are the areas where the money was cut.”
Margaret Heckler (Secretary of Health and Human Services): “Uh, Leslie you have to understand that the amount of money that’s involved here is not vast. And that if we had reinvested the same money that had been spent under the Carter Administration . . the program went from, overall from twenty million to about sixteen or seventeen million dollars . . we could not have had a sufficient um . . monitoring effort, enough social workers, enough police to prevent the tragedy, the horror of Manhattan Beach.”
Stahl asks Heckler twice about the cuts in funding and Heckler dances completely around the issue both times. After fifteen minutes Stahl lets her slide away and the subject changes to the role of the social worker and the courts and is never brought up again.
And so went the Reagan Years.