One of the most notorious tabloid events of the 1990s came full circle earlier this month when Vili Fualaau filed for separation from his wife, the former Mary Kay Letourneau, who was also his 6th grade teacher.
Letourneau, then 34, was convicted of child rape in 1997 after having sex with Fualaau, then 13. She pleaded guilty and was given a reduced sentence of six months in jail on the condition that she never again contact Fualaau. But two weeks after completing her jail term, she was caught having sex with with Fualaau in her car and was given a seven-and-a-half year sentence.
Letourneau and Fualaau had two daughters and married soon after Letourneau was released in 2004. According to Fualaau’s filing, the couple still lives in the same house in Washington state.
Letourneau grew up in Orange County, California in the 1960s and 70s. As a child, my mother was neighbors with one of Mary Kay’s school friends, and Mary Kay would often play in my mother’s yard. But one day, as my mother recalls it, Mary Kay refused to come over.
“My dad said that I’m not allowed to go to your house or to talk to you anymore because you’re Jewish,” she said. “And my dad says that you are a sinner and bad influence, so you better go back to your side of the street now.”
Mary Kay never spoke to my mother again.
Mary Kay’s father was John Schmitz, a Republican legislator and a leader in the far-right John Birch Society, which was often accused of propagating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Schmitz would later be the subject of controversy after issuing a press release entitled “Senator Schmitz and His Committee Survive Attack of the Bulldykes,” in which he described chairing a hearing surrounded by “a sea of hard, Jewish and (arguably) female faces.” This caused him to be expelled from the John Birch Society for what the group called his “extremism.” Schmitz was eulogized upon his death in 2001 by the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust denial group, which called him a “good friend.”
This was not the only instance in which the Schmitz family was accused of anti-Semitism. Mary Kay’s brother Joseph Schmitz, who was the Pentagon’s inspector general from 2002-2005, was accused in a formal grievance filing by a Defense Department employee of boasting about firing Jewish employees and questioning whether the ovens in Nazi concentration camps could have killed six million Jews.
Schmitz, who would go on to serve as a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, called the allegations “completely false and defamatory” and said that he had been married for 38 years to a woman whose maternal grandmother was Jewish.