Insinuations About Charles Pugh Are Problematic; So Is His Judgment
The allegations, for lack of a better word, about Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh’s behavior toward students he mentored at Douglass Academy, a high school for at-risk boys, are problematic. They call to mind the ugliest assumptions about gays as pedophiles.
We know, because the social science research bears this out, that gay men like Pugh are actually less likely than straight men to molest boys. Yet, the irrational fears about gay men always plotting to take liberties with young boys endure in the most ignorant segments of our society.
So when a mother accuses Pugh of lavishing expensive gifts, apparently behind her back, on her son, it’s hard not to see the potential for sort of good old-fashioned moral panic that keep professional fear-mongers like Nancy Grace flush with vesty pantsuits.
To be clear, there is no actual evidence that Pugh engaged in, or even sought, a sexual relationship with this kid. Even if he had, the young man was legally an adult at age 18. Assuming you want to believe the worst here, that Pugh was trolling at-risk teenagers for a date, there is a vast moral chasm between that and the behavior of pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky or Father Paul Shanley.
However, we shouldn’t allow ignorance to excuse Pugh for some serious judgment and boundary issues that are unbecoming of anyone with power and authority.
All parties agree on at least one critical fact: Pugh gave expensive gifts to kids he mentored at Douglass. He apparently bought the student in question a prom night hotel room and a cell phone against parental wishes. Remove the hint of sex from the matter, and we should since no one is alleging a sexual relationship, and Pugh’s actions are still inappropriate.
What parent wouldn’t be concerned that a high school mentor or teacher purchased cell phones for their kid behind their back?
It’s also worth questioning what values Pugh was attempting to instill in these kids with his gifts of cell phones, hotel stays, and (according to Pugh) a $300 Kenneth Cole briefcase, Ray Ban sunglasses, neckties, bow ties, and tickets to Pistons games? That good behavior should be rewarded with trinkets of conspicuous consumption? Some hell of a mentor, this one.
Cast this in even the most favorable light and it remains a very bad business.
Pugh makes things worse for himself with his disappearing act and phony-baloney request for medical leave. Poor judgment coupled with cowardice is a poor combination for any elected official.
It’s one thing for Pugh to issue a no comment, but running and hiding before allegations come to light is another matter. I don’t know if it makes him look guilty, or if that perception is even relevant, but it does make him look gutless.
We’ve seen this movie before with Pugh:
- He dismissed legitimate ethical questions about the transparency of his “Pugh And You” nonprofit.
- He shrugged when asked about defaulting on a mortgage, not out of economic hardship, but because it made good business sense to let his Detroit home fall into foreclosure.
- He approved the city’s consent agreement with the state, then turned around and supported the legal challenge to that agreement.
Time and time again in his short political career, Pugh has shown himself to be a man who always takes the easy way and always looks to duck the consequences of his actions. This latest controversy underscores the inherent fecklessness of Charles Pugh.
The sooner he leaves elected office and returns to demonstrating fun summer recipes on morning chat TV, the better for everyone involved.