A Hidden Life
On May 5, 2005, the residents of Spokane, Washington, awoke to one of the strangest headlines in the town's history: "West Tied to Sex Abuse in '70s, Using Office to Lure Young Men." The popular, socially conservative Republican mayor of Spokane, Jim West, had been outed by the town's newspaper The Spokesman-Review. The paper told the sordid story of a man with two lives: in public, he had once sponsored legislation forbidding gays from teaching in public schools, while in private, the paper alleged, he was trawling for young men online, using the trappings of his office to lure them into sexual relationships. But as bizarre as the revelations were, so too were the newspaper's methods. For months, a middle-aged "forensic computer specialist" had posed as an 18-year-old boy online, engaging the mayor in a relationship that became more and more intimate, ultimately exploding on the front page of the newspaper. In a media climate where sexual scandals dominate the headlines, FRONTLINE producers Rachel Dretzin and Barak Goodman investigate the complex relationship between politics, sexuality, fear, and judgment in one all-American town.
Producer(s): Rachel Dretzin