Earlier this month the John McCain campaign released an ad (link, video link) saying in part:
"Obama's one accomplishment?
Legislation to teach "comprehensive sex education" to kindergartners.
Learning about sex before learning to read?
This has led to a wide variety of BHO supporters - specifically those in the MSM - calling McCain a liar. To a certain extent, they have somewhat of a point: the bill might not be an "accomplishment" for BHO since he was just a supporter and not a co-sponsor and since it never passed. And, the McCain campaign might not have correctly contextualized some of the other quotes they provide in the ad relating to BHO's educational plans.
However, their complaints don't usually involve those points but instead revolve around the middle sentences quoted above; they try to pretend that kindergarteners were just covered by the bill in order to prevent abuse when in fact the bill was much more far-reaching than BHO and his helpers would have you believe. For an example of what Obama would have you believe, see this or this quote from campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki (link):
"Barack Obama supports sensible, community-driven education for children because, among other things, he believes it could help protect them from pedophiles. A child's knowledge of the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching is crucial to keeping them safe from predators."
Within moments of the ad's appearance, the Obama campaign called it "shameful and downright perverse." The legislation in question, a bill [Senate Bill 99] in the Illinois State Senate that was supported but not sponsored by Obama, was, according to Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton, "written to protect young children from sexual predators" and had nothing to do with comprehensive sex education for kindergartners...
Newspaper, magazine, and television commentators quickly piled on. "The kindergarten ad flat-out lies," wrote the New York Times, arguing that "at most, kindergarteners were to be taught the dangers of sexual predators." The Washington Post wrote that "McCain's 'Education' Spot is Dishonest, Deceptive." And in a column in The Hill, the influential blogger Josh Marshall called the sex-education spot "a rancid, race-baiting ad based on [a] lie. Willie Horton looks mild by comparison."
Read the rest, which includes a discussion of how what was originally meant for those in the sixth grade and up was changed to everyone in K-12 because urban areas might require different topics to be covered than more rural areas. The article also includes Byron York trying to get in touch with three of the four original sponsors and for some unknown reason or other not getting his calls returned. Only one of the four spoke with him about the bill:
After we discussed other aspects of the bill, I told [original co-sponsor state senator Iris Martinez] that reading the bill, I just didn't see it as being exclusively, or even mostly, about inappropriate touching. "I didn't see it that way, either," Martinez said. "It's just more information about a whole variety of things that have to go into a sex education class, the things that are outdated that you want to amend with things that are much more current."
So, I asked, you didn't see it specifically as being about inappropriate touching?
That doesn't mean that the parts involving kindergarteners wouldn't be restricted to just inappropriate touching. However, the age range was lowered specifically to allow different school districts to offer teaching appropriate to their areas, and thus those in lower grades could be taught much more than BHO is letting on. For a discussion of that, see this or this.
A list of just some of those who've helped Barack Obama hide the truth about the bill is in the extended entry:
* Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times say the ad "misleadingly accused Obama of endorsing sex education for kindergarten students" (link)
* A New York Times editorial falsely states "At most, kindergarteners were to be taught the dangers of sexual predators." (link) What they could have been taught was left up to the localities.
* Following the party line boilerplate, Paul Krugman says'In reality, he supported legislation calling for "age and developmentally appropriate education"; in the case of young children, that would have meant guidance to help them avoid sexual predators.'
* Larry Rohter of the New York Times pretends the ad was implying that "comprehensive" meant that kindergarteners would receive the information as high school students; he's probably the only person coming to that conclusion. He also takes Obama's word for his understanding of the bill rather than discussing what the bill actually says and what others intended by it (link).
* Emi Kolawole of FactCheck correctly points out some of the minor errors in the ad, but says 'It's true that the phrase "comprehensive sex education" appeared in the bill, but little else in McCain's claim is accurate.' (link)
* Michael Scherer of Time says "[t]he sex-education bill in question had called only for age-appropriate instruction..."
* Brave New Films promotes a Planned Parenthood ad (alternet.org/blogs/video/98697/
planned_parenthood_rips_into_mccain_for_sex-ed_smear_campaign): 'In an ad, they say that Obama was helping children protect themselves from sex offenders, while McCain seemingly doesn't care.'
* Nedra Pickler and Charles Babbington of the Associated Press claim that the ad "misrepresent[ed] [BHO's] position on sex education for kindergartners." (link). That's not completely inaccurate, but it fails to note that BHO either hasn't read, hasn't understood, or is misrepresenting the bill.
* Joe Garofali of the San Francisco Chronicle falsely states 'Obama doesn't support explicit sex education for kindergarteners. The bill -- which never was passed out of the Illinois legislature --included teaching "age-appropriate sex education" -- you know, what is inappropriate touching, that sort of stuff'. (link)
* Richard Cohen offered "The Ugly New McCain" (link) and called the ad a "lie". That referenced a McCain appearance on The View (!) where Joy Behar called it a lie as well.
* Joe Sudbay tries to pretend it was just about preventing abuse (americablog.com/2008/09/mccain-got-nasty-defending-his-negative.html)
* Democratic consultant Mark Mellman says"There is not an iota of reality in McCain's attack on Obama's supporting comprehensive sex education for kindergartners. As we all know, he voted to help children avoid sexual predators."
* A Tampa Bay Tribune editorial says'The facts: Obama, while a state lawmaker in Illinois, supported a measure to provide older students with age and developmentally appropriate sex education. Younger children, such as those kindergarten-age, would be taught "age-appropriate" things such as how to protect themselves from sexual predators.'
* A Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial says"There is no evidence that Obama supported explicit sex education in kindergarten, as a McCain ad implied."
* Not even understanding BHO talking points, Cox Newspapers columnist Tom Teepen says'No, as an Illinois state legislator Obama did not push for "comprehensive sex education" for kindergarteners. He supported a proposal for age appropriate sex education -- which, for kindergarteners, would have meant only making them aware of the possibility of sex abuse and teaching them means to counter it.'
* Darrell West from the Brookings Institution falsely states "The McCain campaign ran another spot erroneously claiming Obama favored comprehensive sex education for kindergarteners." (link)
[RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT]: Did Obama want to teach sex education to kindergartners? Not really. The programming question was intended to teach kids how to avoid sexual predators, says the nonpartisan group FactCheck.org.
VIVECA NOVAK, FACTCHECK.ORG: What he wanted to do was increase the range of some -- some sort of sex education, K-12. But the kind of thing he was interested in having kids at a young age learn about was inappropriate sexual advances that might be made against them.
What BHO says he wants and what was in the bill he voted for are, of course, two entirely different things.