What is the price of denying opportunity?
When you’ve helped get your child into a choice college by paying a scammer to boost their SAT score so said offspring gets a coveted slot, thereby taking that spot from a student who worked hard to come by their score through study and sweat — what should that cost you once you’ve been caught?
For actress Felicity Huffman, one of the rich and famous netted in the “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions bribery scandal, it’s two weeks in prison, a $30,000 fine and 250 hours of community service.
As the Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter reported, the former “Desperate Housewives” actress was ordered Friday to self-surrender to a federal lockup on Oct. 25. Her lawyers have asked that she serve time at FCI Dublin in northern California, a low-security, all-female inmate prison.
According to the prison’s commissary list, Huffman can purchase raw almonds, granola cereal and French vanilla cappuccino on site. So while it is a federal prison, there are worse places she could go. As for that fine, Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy, have a net worth reportedly in the tens of millions of dollars, so she won’t exactly be clipping coupons once she gets out.
Huffman was sentenced after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy and fraud in May for paying $15,000 to scandal mastermind Rick Singer to boost her daughter’s SAT score. She is the first parent to be sentenced among 34 charged in the scheme. According to former federal prosecutor Tim Burke, the allegations against Huffman are among the least serious in the Varsity Blues cases, so defendants such as “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin, accused of more egregious schemes, such as bribing college officials, would likely face more jail time if convicted.
Before sentencing, Huffman summed up her actions succinctly: “I was so stupid, and I was so wrong.”
And yet, celebrities have never been reticent in telling “the little people” how smart and right they are — from what to eat to how to vote.
In 2017 Huffman and Macy both signed on to do a marketing campaign for Renew Life, a line of probiotics sold by Clorox Co. The actress told AdAge she’d been trying different brands of probiotics for years. “I’m an encyclopedia about this stuff,” she said.
And last year, Huffman stepped up in a video endorsement of Danielle Shelton, supporting her bid to become a Milwaukee County Circuit judge. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Shelton took down the post after Huffman was charged.
Huffman is far from alone, of course. Alyssa Milano, the “Charmed” star, has been debating gun control with Ted Cruz; singer Rihanna told interviewers at her Diamond Ball this week, “I think climate change is a real issue.”
With all due respect to the talented woman who gave us “Diamonds” and “Disturbia,” when researching climate change, we don’t think “what does Rihanna say?” should be anyone’s first Google query.
While there are stars who do good works, raising money for poor children and to advance education, among other things, the gaping maw of celebrity convinces far too many that their views on the world and how to live in it should serve as a primer for the rest of us.
Fame does not confer wisdom.
And Hollywood stars should be seen as no better, or worse, than “ordinary” people — especially when their actions undermine the hard work of regular folks.
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