Desmond Hatchett’s been in the news recently, and that’s putting it mildly. Google his name and you get some 38,000 hits, and those include articles by the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Huffington Post, Fox and other big-name media outlets. Hatchett is indeed big news.
And why not? After all, according to those news sources and countless others, he’s a minimum wage worker who’s fathered 30 children with a wide variety of different women. Not only that, he’s recently been in court pleading with a judge to reduce the amount of child support he owes. So it’s no surprise that Hatchett has been all over the printed news, the blogosphere and the airwaves.
There’s just one problem – none of it’s true. That’s right, none of it, as this article shows (Knoxville News Sentinel, 5/31/12).
“I think they spelled Desmond’s name right,” [Juvenile Court Magistrate Stan] Briggs said Wednesday. “That was it. Basically everything in the (LA Times and WREG) story was incorrect.”Oh, Hatchett’s a disgrace to men; he’s a disgrace to fathers. He’s a disgrace to himself. Three years ago, I excoriated him here because at the time, he’d fathered 21 children with 11 different women (Glenn Sacks.com, 5/28/12). At the time he was earning about $1,500 a month and paying about $1,200 of that in child support. That’s an average of about $60 per kid per month, hardly enough to call him a responsible dad. And of course he’s not. My guess is he rarely spends much time with any of them.
In fact, I know he doesn’t, and the way I know that is the way I know the entire recent eruption of ‘Desmond Hatchett’ stories was entirely bogus. You see, Desmond Hatchett has been in prison for the last three years. He went inside for aggravated assault and hasn’t been with a woman since; the number of kids he had in 2009 is the number he has now. Of course, being in prison, he supports them even less than he did before, which wasn’t much.
All of that is easily-available information. A glance at Knoxville, Tennessee Juvenile Court records shows the number of kids he has. A glance at his rap sheet shows that he’s in prison and for how long. So how is it that all those news organizations suddenly decided that (a) Hatchett wasn’t in prison and (b) he’d fathered a lot more kids?
That turns out to be a good – and to date unanswered – question. No one seems to know, but I have a theory that I’d put money on. Before the Hatchett non-story broke, the big news was “Octomom” Nadya Suleman. She’s the one who garnered much national attention back in 2009 when, already as a mother of six children under the age of six, she decided to have herself artificially inseminated. That produced eight more fertilized eggs. Now, the normal procedure in such a situation would be for the fertility doctor to remove all but one or maybe two. But that decision wasn’t up to him/her; it was up to Suleman and she chose to keep all eight. She gave birth to octuplets to go with the six she already had.
Her outrageous and irresponsible behavior produced a firestorm of indignation from all quarters except the feminist one . As I said in my piece on Hatchett, Patricia Williams in The Nation spurned any and all criticism of Suleman calling it ‘eugenics,’ and suggested that the ability to support one’s children shouldn’t be a consideration in the decision to procreate. Amazing, but true.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that shortly before the Hatchett flap, Suleman was back in the news, and her story was more tawdry than ever. Apparently the big news now is that her potential value as a porn star has diminished lately and, to no one’s surprise, she’s relying on the taxpayers to support her future baseball team (starting nine plus a five-kid starting rotation).
My guess is that someone decided that the wave of anti-Suleman publicity had to be countered by a wave of anti-dad publicity, and who better to provide the dirt than Desmond Hatchett? Just how that person convinced legitimate journalists that Hatchett had produced all those additional kids, I don’t know, but however it was done, it worked. I guess the usual willingness to believe anything negative about fathers played a big role in big media’s decision to not do simple basic fact-checking on the non-story. Now they’ve go egg on their face, but that’s really not news.
My theory that ‘Octomom’s’ resurfacing had a lot to do with placing the bogus claims about Hatchett is that many of the headlines called him “Octodad.” Here’s one (Knoxville News Sentinel, 6/4/12).
As I hope I’ve made clear, I have little but disdain for Desmond Hatchett. He’s a criminal who takes little responsibility for his children. But I want to repeat what I said in my first piece about him three years ago – bad as he is, he’s not nearly as irresponsible as Nadya Suleman. Yes, he’s fathered far too many children whom he barely did anything to support when he was free. Now he does nothing to support them. That’s despicable. But at least his children have 11 different mothers, and 11 mothers can care for those children. In Suleman’s case, she’s one mother with 14 kids; there’s no way she can support them and indeed she isn’t.
Second, Hatchett and his various paramours freely decided not to use contraception. He did and they did. That means the women accepted the possibility of pregnancy and so did he. In Suleman’s case, only one person was involved – her. Only she opted to become pregnant yet again when she already had six kids, and only she decided to give birth to all eight children she’d conceived via artificial insemination. No man said ‘yes’ to that.
So the comparison between Hatchett and Suleman doesn’t go very deep. They’re both irresponsible louts, but that’s it.
But what’s interesting about this latest flare-up of “news” is that someone somewhere decided that bad news on the Mom front had to be countered with bad news on the Dad front, even when there was none. What’s far more interesting is that the ruse worked; countless supposedly reputable news organizations swallowed the lie hook, line and sinker. I say that’s because the supposed bad actor was a father and some in the newsrooms of the major news media are all too ready to report that – so ready in fact that they didn’t do the most basic thing in journalism – check their facts.