From time to time, I’ve published letters to the editor, in various newspapers. The normal practice, upon the letter’s acceptance, is for the paper to check any factual assertions contained in the letter. If the paper can’t verify the facts, the letters editor asks the writer to do so; if the writer, in turn, can’t verify the facts, the letter must be modified. I’m unaware of any newspaper that has a policy of printing factually inaccurate letters.
Any newspaper, that is, except for the Herald-Sun, at least if those letters reflect Editor Bob Ashley’s party line. In its November 8 edition, it published a letter from Norma Cone, who stated, “Not all 46 lacrosse players were at the party. Those not at the party would not be suspects. Therefore, non-suspects were included in the line-up.”
That statement is demonstrably untrue. Beginning with the March 23 non-testimonial order motion, Mike Nifong had publicly described all 46 white players on the team as suspects. He continued to make such a claim until mid-May.
Then came a November 12 letter from Laura Blasberg that almost comically compared the video of the accuser pole-dancing to the average person having “worked sick.” Blasberg didn’t explain how going to work with a cold or cough is comparable to being captured on video performing in a limber fashion while telling doctors of such pain that the dancer could barely walk or turn her head.
Blasberg further asserted, “The news media spent days, fueled by defense attorneys, focusing on whether or not the rape victim went back to work in the weeks following the rape. They report on differing accounts as to this - some co-workers say that she did go back, some say that she didn’t (of course, according to the defense attorneys, the ones that say what they don’t want to hear are liars, but their witnesses are truthful).”
As with Cone’s assertion in her letter, this statement is demonstrably untrue. I have encountered no “media” reports claiming that any “co-workers” of the accuser stated that she didn’t go back to work following the incident. In an e-mail to me, Blasberg claimed to have based her letter on the repudiated affidavit of the strip-club owner—hardly a “co-worker” of the accuser; unclear is why she didn’t correct her letter after the owner himself admitted, the next day, his affidavit was untrue.
I’m also unaware of any defense attorney, at any point in the case, who has said that any of the accuser’s “co-workers” are “liars.” It’s nice to see, as well, that Blasberg has obtained knowledge that a rape definitely occurred—though she left unclear which of the accuser’s myriad, mutually contradictory, stories that she believes. I asked Blasberg about this matter; she did not respond.
(Blasberg represents a group called “Take Back The News,” which describes its mission as confronting “the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of sexual assault in mainstream media,” while raising “public awareness about the epidemic nature of rape.”)
The Blasberg letter contains another inaccuracy: it identifies her residence as
I wrote to Blasberg to ask whether she had recently moved to
(In the Lexis/Nexis version of the letter, the H-S added a correction that Blasberg is, in fact, a New York resident—but I doubt many in the H-S target audience read the letters page through Lexis/Nexis.)
The Blasberg letter marks at least the second occasion when the H-S inaccurately claimed that a pro-Nifong letter came from a
It almost appears as if the H-S—which in an editorial admitted to being “surprised” that a majority of Durham County voters opposed Mike Nifong’s election—is using its letters page to create a false impression that Nifong enjoys broadly based community support. The pattern is especially intriguing given that in the days after the Blasberg letter appeared, the H-S printed letters critical of Nifong from out-of-state residents.
Could it be that Editor Bob Ashley is attempting to pander to
An item posted on the Friends of Duke website, meanwhile, offers a frightening glimpse inside the mindset of the H-S editorial staff.
Debrah Correll, a
In the midst of the conversation, Correll said that she “brought up their October ‘60 Minutes’ editorial again, which was very petty and cast aspersions on the LAX players in a personal and most unprofessional way. I mentioned that it was not well-written and was unprofessional work coming from a newspaper editorial staff.” (She’s right on all counts.) Correll added her concern that “they have openly and forcefully been aiding Mike Nifong at every turn.”
She then noted,
The reply that I received from [letters editor] Greg Childress was that countless black men have been falsely accused in the past . . . so what’s such a big deal about these lacrosse players?Correll recognized the stunning nature of this admission: following the Ashley “trial-at-all-costs” agenda, “this employee of the Herald-Sun . . . actually admitted that he felt it’s OK for this to happen because there have been many black men from decades past who were falsely accused.”
Perhaps the Herald-Sun should simply dispense with its editorial staff and simply turn the pages over to NCCU student government senator Chan Hall, who can expand on his theories that the Duke students should prosecuted “whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past.”
At least, unlike the Herald-Sun, Hall is open about his agenda, and offers no pretense of either journalistic objectivity or ensuring that readers receive factual accuracy.
[Update, 11.39: It almost seems as if the H-S is eager to print anything, no matter how bizarrely argued or inaccurately sourced, that attacks the lacrosse players. Liestoppers notes the latest in H-S audacity, an op-ed from a women's studies/cultural anthropology dual major who asserts, without citing any evidence, that "very rarely are the Duke lacrosse players not partying or drinking." She adds, stunningly, "Much of this emphasis on ‘innocence’ has ignored the gender and racial prejudice of the March 13 party. If nothing else, Nifong is holding the lacrosse players accountable for that; and as a woman at Duke who knows just how much these men get away with, I’m thankful…Nifong might not be in the right legally, but that doesn’t mean he's not doing the right thing."
Meanwhile, today's H-S has a long article on a tax lien filed against Jerry Clayton, a local attorney (not the subject of a normal news story, to say the least)--and concludes with the following sentence, ' Clayton attended a mid-September political dinner in Raleigh orchestrated by former state attorney general and secretary of state Rufus Edmisten, with several other Nifong opponents who wanted to persuade write-in candidate Steve Monks to drop out of the DA's race so another challenger would have a better chance to win." The connection between Clayton's political beliefs and his tax returns? Who knows.]
Hat tip: K.R.