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In the Crossfire

Smile, you're on 'John's TV'

(CNN) -- Some men in Denver, Colorado, are getting unwanted airtime on the city's cable access channel. Is broadcasting photos of men convicted of soliciting prostitutes a good law enforcement tool? Does this public display go too far in trying to shame lawbreakers? Denver's city attorney, Wallace Wortham, steps into the "Crossfire" with hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

BEGALA: You know, last Thursday a new program premiered on a Denver cable access channel. It's called "John's TV" and it shows the mug shots of 11 men convicted of soliciting prostitution. Their pictures are also on the city's Web site. Cities of Orlando, Charlotte and Calgary have similar programs to discourage prostitution by publicly shaming the guys who get caught with their pants down. Literally.

By the way, Denver is also the headquarters of Qwest Communications, the phone company that's just admitted cooking the books to the tune of over $1 billion. Are they putting the wrong guys on TV here, or is it just me?

Denver City Attorney Wallace Wortham joins us now from our San Francisco bureau. Mr. Wortham, thank you very much for joining us on "Crossfire."

WORTHAM: Good evening.

CARLSON: Now, we know something about television ratings here at "Crossfire," and I know a desperate attempt to appeal to the public's ... interests when I see one, and "John's TV" is just that. That's what this is about, isn't it? You know people are going to want to watch it, so you put it on?

WORTHAM: Absolutely not. "John's TV" is a response to demands by neighborhood residents and business owners to aggressively seek to root out prostitution and solicitation for prostitution in their neighborhood.

BEGALA: Mr. Wortham, though, why not -- that's all well and good, and I suppose I could be for shame and public humiliation as much as the next guy -- after all, I work on cable television. But why not expand it? Why not these goofballs from Qwest who allegedly cooked the books? Why not insider traders? Why not drunk drivers? Why not Bush and Cheney? I don't know. Just other people we need to shame and humiliate.

WORTHAM: If the city of Denver had the jurisdiction to humiliate people at Qwest, based on the allegations that you've just raised, we would certainly do that. But unfortunately, that's not our purview.

CARLSON: OK. Well, let's talk about something that is your purview. What about child molesters? What about rapists? I guess the point here is, people soliciting prostitutes are really at the lower end of the threat scale here, whereas child molesters, I would say, are right near the top. Why not put them on the tube?

WORTHAM: Well, it's a question of visibility. And the visibility that we're talking about are the children who live in this neighborhood actually seeing solicitation for sex, seeing sexual encounters, finding condoms in the alley, and the residents actually having people have sex in their backyards. So it's about the visibility that this solution has been shaped for this particular problem.

BEGALA: Well, here of course in Washington, D.C., no one had sex since the Clinton administration left town, so we don't have that problem in anybody's backyard, but why not, like Orlando, where they broadcast the pictures of the hookers as well? Apparently, Denver will just put the guys on there. Isn't this discrimination against our gender, Mr. Wortham?

WORTHAM: Oh, without question, it is not discrimination. There are two clear reasons for that. One, to put the pictures of the hookers on would, in fact, be providing free advertising for the hookers.

BEGALA: Well, quality service and a low cost, I mean, that's the free market, right?

WORTHAM: No, that's not the quality of life or the culture that people in Denver are about. And the second ...

CARLSON: I mean, -- oh, sorry, go ahead, Mr. Wortham.

WORTHAM: The second reason is that I think that we take a more humane approach about the plight of these women who have to sell their bodies. Oftentimes, they're suffering from physical and mental disabilities. So we've taken the approach that we should provide social services to them. And if we deter the guys, the women won't have business and they won't be in the business.

CARLSON: Wait a second. So the poor oppressed hooker class gets all the generosity of the taxpayers of Denver. But some poor married guy, who's drunk and lonely, his wife is out of town, has his marriage destroyed ...

BEGALA: Hypothetically speaking, of course.

CARLSON: Settle down, Paul. I think, you know, look, the problem here that strikes me is for a relatively low-grade crime you're potentially destroying someone's entire family.

WORTHAM: Wow, you really have it absolutely wrong. What you're saying is that the john and his family are victims and you're ignoring the fact that the victims are the people who live in the neighborhood. What if they were having sex ...

CARLSON: What about the children of the men who were busted doing this? You think some 8-year-old should be allowed to see his father as a convicted john? I mean, that's appalling, isn't it?

WORTHAM: No, it isn't, because his father should think about that before he goes on Colefax (ph). The obligation -- give me a minute here. The responsibility is on the father. It's not the city's responsibility to make sure that he acts responsibly as it relates to his family.




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