Controversial 1981 pardon by Jimmy Carter returns to the spotlight

Former President Jimmy Carter has been making headlines recently for all the wrong reasons — and now, it’s the 94-year-old’s past that’s coming back to bite him.

Carter is back in the headlines after a well-known singer who was pardoned by Carter in the early 1980s was ousted from a music festival for his past conviction of taking “indecent liberties” with a 14-year-old girl, according to Fox News.

Off the hook

The well-known singer whom Carter pardoned was Peter Yarrow, of the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary. The incident that earned Yarrow some jail time took place in Washington in 1969.

At that time, two teenage sisters, a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old, went to Yarrow’s hotel room to ask for an autograph. When the girls knocked on the door, Yarrow answered — naked.

He was subsequently arrested, and during a trial was found guilty of taking “indecent liberties” with the 14-year-old. Yarrow was accordingly sentenced to three months in jail. Then, President Carter got involved.

The day before Ronald Reagan supplanted him, in 1981, Carter — apparently a fan of the singer — used his power to pardon Yarrow, getting the musician off the hook.

Set change

This story had largely been forgotten until recently, when Yarrow was set to perform at a New York music festival, the Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival, which is to be held in upstate New York on Sept. 8.

Social media was outraged over Yarrow’s inclusion in the festival, eventually leading to him being disinvited.

“When booking this artist we were not aware of news stories about an incident involving Yarrow in 1970,” said Melissa DeCordova, Colorscape’s board president. “Some members of our community expressed concern, and after further investigation and careful consideration, the decision was made to remove Yarrow from the music schedule.”

Now what?

It would not be unfair to characterize Peter, Paul, and Mary as a liberal music group. Songs from them like “If I Had a Hammer” have become anthems for racial equality, and they vehement denounced the Vietnam War.

It’s pretty ironic that the very party that at one time made Yarrow and his group famous is likely responsible for him not partaking in the festival.

But the show will go on. Colorscape has said that it will announce a replacement act at a later date.

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