By Jessica McBride Special to Published Nov 17, 2015 at 12:36 PM

The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, its advertisers or editorial staff.

Am I supposed to feel sorry for Charlie Sheen? 

Let me be clear. I don’t feel having HIV should be stigmatized. We’re well past that point as a society. I lived through the ‘80s, and I remember how it used to be; people with HIV are human beings who should not be shunned. And, of course, we should have some degree of empathy for anyone who’s sick. He was certainly a very good actor once as well.

Thus, I also feel some empathy for the central tragedy of Charlie Sheen as a public figure, for the fact that his early promise ("Platoon," etc.) descended into a pit of porn star-fueled debauchery, squandered talent, bizarre rants about "tiger blood" (takes on new meaning) and the like, and now illness. I also feel a certain empathy for anyone in the throes of addiction.

But I’m not going to lionize Charlie Sheen because he’s now sick. I don’t feel sorry for alleged women beaters, sorry. I find it hard to feel sorry for a guy who is a known woman beater, whose "girlfriends" are an endless stream of porn stars, and who – and this is the worst part – might have played Russian Roulette with people’s lives. He’s probably the worst spokesman for the HIV-positive cause. We should have shunned him as a public figure years ago for allegedly beating women and calling them repulsive names.

His debauched lifestyle of drugs and porn stars is repugnant, but that’s his problem. This is America, and if you want to bring porn stars home to the parents, that’s your right. But don’t ask me to feel sorry for you if that doesn’t work out so great in the end. Knowingly exposing people to risks of infection? That, frankly, should be a problem for law enforcement. And if he wasn’t a celebrity – if he was just some guy without power or fame – there’d be a police investigation by now instead of a big, softball interview with Matt Lauer.

Think I’m being too harsh? Well, you don’t get to go around society knowingly endangering other people’s health. Did he do so? Time will tell.

I feel sorry for the women who had sex with Charlie Sheen and had to wonder if they were HIV-positive (and maybe some are, who knows). I feel sorry for the women he allegedly beat. And I feel sorry for his kids and parents.

But him? Having a hard time with that one. I can’t feel sorry for a possible woman beater, sorry. Knowingly risking intimate partners’ lives would fall along the woman-hating spectrum, too. Here’s an account that rounds up the publicly known abuse allegations against Sheen. There was the highly publicized case in 1996, for example, in which he was arrested for allegedly knocking out a porn star. She released pictures of her bloodied lip and bruised neck. He pleaded no contest and was convicted of battery.

This was not isolated either, but it didn’t stop him from being hired for big TV shows. There have been a slew of other abuse allegations from other women and ex-wives. It’s a pattern. I’m confused why this was not enough to disqualify him as a celebrity long ago. Maybe the drugs made him violent. It’s still not right.

The Today show didn’t really press him on the hard questions. In case you missed it, Sheen told Matt Lauer today that he was HIV-positive and has been paying millions of dollars in extortion hush money to people who knew (extortion is also a crime). He came forward to end the payments and a series of rumors that had exploded in the past week about a "major Hollywood star with HIV."

Sheen denies threatening anyone’s health. "I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories that are about me, threatening the health of so many others that couldn't be further from the truth," he told the Today Show.

He also told the Today Show it was "impossible" that "he knowingly transmitted the virus to others. While he admitted to having unprotected sex with two people since the diagnosis, both were informed ahead of time and have been under the care of his doctor. But Sheen dismissed the idea that he engaged in high-risk behaviors."

So let’s unpack that statement. He admits having unprotected sex with two people after learning he had HIV. But he argues it’s impossible he knowingly transmitted the virus to others and doesn’t engage in high-risk behaviors. Doesn’t that seem incongruent? That IS a high-risk behavior. Semantics, maybe, and probably designed to stave off lawsuits and criminal investigation as it’s a crime in California to knowingly expose someone to HIV. If you had unprotected sex with people while you knew you had HIV, it was not "impossible" that they could contract it, either. And why are the two people under his doctor’s care? Do they have HIV? Who are they, and do they agree with his odd statement that they knew he had HIV and had unprotected sex with him anyway? Who would do that? Why didn’t Today ask? Would be nice if they asked him some tough questions (hey, put Megyn Kelly on it. She’s good at that).

Furthermore, a former porn star girlfriend, Bree Olson, has since told the media that Sheen had sex with her for more than a year using a type of lambskin condom that doesn’t protect people from HIV and also allegedly had unprotected sex with her and that he did NOT tell her he had it. She had previously tweeted out the following message:

But within the past 24 hours, Olson also tweeted out the following:

I wouldn’t be shocked if other such accounts trickle out now. 

What an ugly life that must be. I hope Charlie Sheen conquers his addictions, stops dating porn stars, stays healthy, stops beating women and lives a long life. People can turn their lives around. It’s never too late for that. I also hope that’s the case for the women he may have exposed. But I’m not going to turn him into some heroic figure.

Jessica McBride Special to

Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.

She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.

Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.

Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.