I recently watched "Won't You Be My Neighbor?", a documentary of the life of Fred Rogers, long-time producer and star of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood". By all accounts, his earnest approach to childhood, with authentic loving messages directed straight at young children, was innovative. I am too old for it to have influenced my own childhood. As a young adult, I like most of my peers thought it was corny and dopey. When my own girls were little, I rapidly came to feel differently. Swimming against the cultural tide, he refused violence, irony, and slapstick. He was saying just what young children needed to hear and what I had never heard as a child. I strove to say the same things to my own girls when I could do so honestly.
It's agreed he was an unusual person, and his persona on TV meshed very well with how he was in real life. He was trained in the ministry, and saw his TV work as a form of ministry. His affection for children was strong and unusual.
Why not entertain the idea that he was a celibate pedophile? Most people will react with horror. Who would suggest such a thing except someone dedicated to smearing and vilifying him? What other purpose could there possibly be? Surely it's another version of fake news, an allegation made without any support. It's true that I don't have any strong support. I'm not saying he was a pedophile. But I ask the question, and the premise of my question is that it's not necessarily a bad thing to be a pedophile. We pedophiles cover the same range of goodness and badness as any other class of people. If Mr. Rogers was a pedophile, he was an outstandingly good pedophile. Pedophiles tend to have very low self-esteem. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could look to Mr. Rogers as a role model?
Another common narrative is that pedophiles seek to be close to children only so they can molest them, and that's a horrifying thought. (I can't say he never molested children, but I see no evidence of that, and I don't think *any* adult can fully convince us that he or she never molested a child.) Even if he never did molest them, all his good work would be tainted by his attractions. What a repulsive idea that he would later entertain sexual fantasies about the children he appeared to love genuinely? But he might not have. We can wonder if Fred Rogers ever masturbated -- some people who take their religion seriously never do. He could even have been a pedophile and not realized it. He might have been a pedophile like me -- I lived most of my adult life without realizing I was one, and speculate that if I had remarried I might never have discovered and labeled it as such. Yet I felt genuine affection for children, and my discovery did not make what I felt any less authentic. Perhaps he lived his whole life without making the discovery. I would actually suspect that if he was a pedophile, he did not know it, as it would have troubled him deeply and led to self-doubt and not his seemingly open and honest confidence. It would be a different world in which he could have been a pedophile with confidence and still done the work he did.
What evidence do we have?
The biggest piece is simply his highly unusual great affection for children.
In the movie the speculation is addressed that he was gay, and that notion is laid to rest. Still, there is something not-quite-typical in his sexuality that warranted the suspicion. His wife does not discuss their sex life in the film.
He did occasionally address the topic of sex. In the version of "Everybody's Fancy" that I can easily find on YouTube his demeanor seems entirely comfortable, but I swear I saw another version when my kids were little where he looked decidedly uncomfortable when telling his audience that boys are fancy on the outside and girls are fancy on the inside. (One adult woman told me that he was too elliptical and she as a young child didn't know what he was talking about -- she figured girls' fanciness was a matter of mind or personality). I myself judge that doesn't really bear on the question one way or the other. Plenty of people are uncomfortable talking about sex with children. His discomfort only stands out against his comfort in speaking about a whole range of other topics that lots of the rest of us could not address comfortably.
He did beget two sons, so he would not have been a completely exclusive pedophile. As we know, non-exclusive pedophilia is very common. Yet he might have been exclusive too. Many gay men through history have begotten children who would not label themselves as bisexual. Managing to perform is quite different from feeling an attraction. If he did feel a limited attraction to his wife, perhaps he viewed it as part of being a better person -- religious people often would feel proud of not being a slave to the passions.
I'm not saying Fred Rogers was a pedophile. But there is somewhat more evidence to support that guess than for the average person. There is no evidence he was a molester. Those (including many pedophiles) who view the idea that he was a pedophile with revulsion can reflect on whether that reflects prejudice on their part.
Why can't we celibate pedophiles entertain that maybe he was one of us and feel good about that possibility?