Last week, when Dr. Mel Levine’s death was announced, many found it odd that he died the day after having a class action lawsuit filed against him on behalf of over 40 men who claimed they were molested by him as children.
The speculation only grew from there, some saying he may be in hiding while others said it must have been suicide. Today, the North Carolina sheriff’s report states that it was an apparent suicide. He was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head. Levine’s wife, Barbara, found a suicide note on February 17 and says she hadn’t seen him since February 12.
The Charlotte Observer reports that the attorney filing charges, Carmen Durso, is digging for answers:
Carmen Durso has contacted the NC medical examiner’s office trying to find out how Levine died.
“If in fact there was a suicide, that’s very relevant to the court action we’re doing,” Durso said. A suicide might be considered an “admission by conduct” in the eyes of a jury, he said.
Durso plans to aim the suit at Levine’s estate and will seek a judge’s permission to solicit 5,000 male patients who saw Levine in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s to join the class-action suit.
So how could this happen?
How was a pediatrician who cared for countless children able to get away with molesting boys for years on end and gain popularity and notoriety while doing it?
In his heyday, Levine sold out speaking engagements, authored several books, founded the “All Kinds of Minds” institute, and appeared on television shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show. Many people were in awe of Levine’s advice on learning disabilities. He called them “learning differences” and made parents feel that their kids were not inferior or bad for having learning challenges; they just faced different obstacles that could be addressed and improved. It was a positive message that recognized children for the unique people they are.
But it is also a solid hook for a pedophile. What would work better than this schtick? He met with parents who were at their wit’s end over their child’s behavior and grades and in essence said, “I can help, this is temporary, and your child can be successful.” It became a cruel game created to entice vulnerable parents and children into a land of deceit and molestation.
I worked with a company that once sponsored a Levine event before charges were made public. None of us had any idea that he might be a pedophile. In person, he was a charismatic and engaged speaker, and this likely enabled him to keep his criminal activity under wraps.
So, when I read the Jezebel post , “Oprah’s Long History of Sketchy Experts’ And Endorsements,” which included him as proof of Oprah’s ill-conceived guest list, I immediately dismissed it. How could Oprah or her staff have known that he was a pedophile? There were no lawsuits back when he was a guest on the show. Once they did find out, all material about him was removed from Oprah’s website. There was little more that could be done at that point. Until the accusations of sexual molesting were made public in 2008, Levine was a prominent doctor and teacher in the field of learning disabilities. His books and lectures were still highly praised by teachers and parents.
I also fall on the side of believing that with the amount of guests Oprah has had on her show, it’s virtually impossible to not have a few who turned out to be poor choices. And like my colleague John pointed out today, why are we looking to Oprah to make choices for us anyway?
What Mel Levine is alleged to have done is sick, twisted and has caused many lives to be severely impaired and changed forever. Oprah, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse herself, has done countless shows on pedophiles and their survivors. In turn, she has undoubtedly helped thousands of sexual abuse victims to feel less shameful, to get help, and to feel that they are still worthy. She does the exact opposite of what Levine was alleged to have done. She has a genuine concern for bettering people’s lives, while Levine was a doctor who not only abused his oath but used it to hurt innocent children.
Let’s put the blame where it belongs.