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John Ramsey: Mixed messages about child pageants on Nightline, GMA

Headlines spurred by John Ramsey's promotional blitz on behalf of his new book, The Other Side of Suffering, have focused not on the potential identity of the person who killed his young daughter, JonBenet, in Boulder circa 1996, but on his negative comments about child beauty pageants and the Toddlers & Tiaras phenomenon. But a closer look at the clips shows that the message Ramsey delivers on the topic is quite mixed.

The Nightline segment is the most critical, with Ramsey branding the TLC program, and the scene it captures, as "bizarre." But when it comes to his family's decision to let JonBenet compete in pageants, Ramsey express regret "only because that might have drawn attention to us" -- the implication being that the murderer may have targeted her after seeing her in such a show.

JonBenet in pageant mode.
JonBenet in pageant mode.

"I think advice to a parent is, just recognize that no matter where you live, there could be evil around you, and don't be naive about it.... Be a little more aware than we were that not everyone around you is a nice, good person," he adds.

These comments make perfect sense from the perspective of a man whose daughter was slain by what he's long insisted was a mysterious intruder. But it's not the same as a blast at the creepy sexualization of children that pageant detractors cite.

Ramsey's interview on Good Morning America further undermines the implication that he's become a prime attacker of these spectacles. He concedes that "I saw an element of competitiveness that I thought was unhealthy," but stresses that his wife Patsy approached the events in a spirit of fun, not weirdness. And then, he reveals that he still carries an award JonBenet won in a talent contest shortly before her death, pulling it from his wallet to display to host Robin Roberts.

This moment hardly exposes the dark side of kid pageantry. Indeed, it could practically be a plug for the whole notion.

Watch the clips here. The Nightline embed may feature a small cut-out section for some viewers, but it should still play.

Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our Media archive: "JonBenét Ramsey at 21: What would she have looked like today? (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)."


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