Monday night ABC World News Tonight aired an undercover report that certainly didn't make the hunting and fishing world look very good. That's not a value judgement on the facts of the report, or anyone's guilt or innocence- that's for the courts to decide. But it's a simple observation based on having seen a report that includes tour operators advising ABC News' Dan Harris that he could certainly have a little "entertainment" along with his overseas hunting and fishing trip- with beautiful women.
"I mean, it's a third world country and you can do whatever you want," the unidentified tour operator told Harris from the floor of the Dallas Safari Club convention. "You know if you want to do a party it's not like here-you can't touch, you can't look-you can do whatever the f**k you want."
That's awful, but it gets worse.
Now, Harris reported, federal law enforcement officials have confirmed they're investigating the allegations that some of these tour operators aren't just offering "parties" they're offering "sex with children" for American men overseas on hunting or fishing expeditions.
The story is a continuation of one we reported -briefly- several months ago, minus all but one name- Phil Marsteller. He says abusing minors has "become a cancer on his industry."
As you can imagine, Marsteller's not the most popular guy in the guided tour industry. In fact, one tour operator in the ABC report says Marsteller is anything but popular. "There's a code of the West in this industry that nobody breaks--and he broke it," the operator said, unaware he was being filmed, "That's why nobody likes him."
Yesterday, I spoke with Marsteller about what was about to happen - and how it would likely impact an industry already reeling from a troubled economy.
His reaction wasn't one I expected. Instead of vindication after vilification by many in the industry, Marsteller was regretful that such a negative light was being shined on the tour industry. "It didn't have to happen," he told me, "I had told plenty of people this was happening. They just decided to turn a blind eye to it."
The Dallas Safari Club spoke out on February 1, issuing saying it would "aggressively enforce zero tolerance for those participating in these types of activities."
"Our Club has a well-established track record of banning outfitters for hunting ethics violations," said Ben Carter, DSC executive director, "but this deplorable activity goes beyond ethics and into criminal liability."
"Dallas Safari Club will not stand by while human decency is assaulted, either at home or abroad. I cannot overstate our condemnation of this appalling exploitation of minors."
According to Carter, DSC will continue to support ethical guides and outfitters, legitimate hunters and anglers - and "the industry as a whole" - for their invaluable worth to global conservation.
At this point, it's entirely too-early to tell where any investigations into these nauseating allegations will lead, but one thing remains the same:
We'll keep you posted- even when we're disgusted by the whole matter.