Reason Roundup

Cops Say Cindy McCain Didn't Catch Toddler Trafficker at Airport

Plus: Lionel Shriver on cultural erasure and Stormy Daniels on strip-club labor laws


If you see something, maybe you should stop and think before you say something. Earlier this week, we published a story about the ways sex-trafficking myths and "See Something, Say Something" rhetoric are being deployed in a dangerous mix that doesn't stop crime but does lead to a lot of discriminatory harassment. It was awfully thoughtful of Cindy McCain to so nicely serve as a case in point. In a February 4 interview with Arizona radio station KTAR News, McCain—wife of the late Sen. John McCain—said that she was at the Phoenix airport last week when she spotted a mother who was "a different ethnicity" from her child. Apparently, that didn't sit right with McCain.

"Something didn't click with me," McCain told KTAR. "I went over the police and told them what I saw and they went over and questioned her and, by God, she was trafficking that kid. She was waiting for the guy who bought the child to get off an airplane."

McCain said the moral of the story is "If you see something, say something." That's the same thing Marriott's head said about its new anti-trafficking training program, and it's the motto of a Homeland Security program designed to get people to spy on each other and report suspicious behavior to the feds.

But what McCain saw isn't what she thought she saw. Police say they investigated her tip and found "no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment."

After police disputed McCain's radio claims, she tweeted: "At Phoenix Sky Harbor, I reported an incident that I thought was trafficking. I commend the police officers for their diligence. I apologize if anything else I have said on this matter distracts from 'if you see something, say something.'"

McCain has long been one of the worst perpetrators of paranoid, clueless, and unhelpful "awareness"-raising around issues of sexual exploitation. (She tells people she got involved after seeing children in the basement of a fabric shop in India—the shopkeeper said it was his family—and for some reason deciding they must be child sex slaves. Over time, the number of "sets of eyes" she supposedly saw gazing up at her has grown, and now stands at 100 pairs of eyes, up from 40 in 2014 and simply "more than a family" in some tellings.)

McCain made "anti–sex trafficking" efforts a main mission of the McCain Institute, and she is now co-chair of the Arizona Governor's Council on Human Trafficking.


"Culprits are sentenced to cultural erasure," laments Lionel Schriver, in an essay dissecting the impulse to not just prevent targets of outrage from finding future work but to hide all of their past contributions to art, entertainment, and the cultural lexicon:

For reasons that escape me, artists' misbehavior now contaminates the fruits of their labors, like the sins of the father being visited upon the sons. So it's not enough to punish transgressors merely by cutting off the source of their livelihoods, turning them into social outcasts, and truncating their professional futures. You have to destroy their pasts. Having discovered the worst about your fallen idols, you're duty-­bound to demolish the best about them as well.

Read the whole thing here.


Stormy Daniels on strip-club labor laws. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Stormy Daniels argues against a recent Supreme Court of California decision that effectively says dancers at strip clubs must be counted as employees—not independent contractors, as is the norm around the country—unless they perform "work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business."

The ruling addressed independent contractors generally, but it could have big implications for adult performers in Calfornia. "The work strippers do is clearly not outside the usual course of a strip club's business," writes Daniels. But mandating that they all be full employees and not independent contractors could ruin the flexibility, privacy, and other perks of the current system. "Strippers seeking strong workplace protections and good benefits are sincere and legitimate, but forcing all dancers to become employees is not the answer," Daniels concludes.


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