The first three editions of DIW’s “March Madness” looked at the 10 worst op-eds, the 10 worst “news” articles, and the 10 most outrageous faculty publications of the case. Today’s bracket features the 10 worst case-related soundbites. As with yesterday’s bracket, the worst of the worst ranked is #1. Reader nominations are welcome in the comment thread.
A few guidelines: Nifong soundbites are excluded; otherwise, the “minister of justice” would have all 10 seeds. I have defined soundbite as a statement no longer than a paragraph. I also have tried to evaluate the outrageousness of the soundbite with the status of the speaker (i.e., a college student can be held to a lower standard than a lawyer who’s commenting on TV, or a University president).
The DIW versions of Drexel and Air Force—two teams that appeared to have the credentials to make this year’s NCAA tournament but were left out—probably will fall into this bracket. There have been hundreds of outrageous soundbites at various points in the case. Neither Nancy Grace nor Victoria Peterson, for instance, made the list—in part because Grace’s comments tended to be sophomoric and spiteful while Peterson’s have generally been incoherent—which gives a sense of just how bad the top 10 are.
Without further ado:
10) “I’m not sure I understand the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ statements that have been put forward.” (Anonymous potbanger, March 29). A totalitarian whiff has existed throughout this case, perhaps best captured in this statement. If the accusation is politically useful, principles of American jurisprudence are abandoned. The accused is guilty until proven innocent—or, judging by the rhetoric of some “victims’ rights” advocates, simply guilty.
9) “[Chan] Hall said he wanted to see the Duke students prosecuted ‘whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past.’” (NCCU student government leader Chan Hall, quoted in Newsweek, May 1, 2006 issue). At the time, many people probably thought this comment came from a stray campus extremist. That was before it came out that Hall chaired a key committee in the NCCU student government, and had narrowly missed being elected the Speaker. Or that in one 17-person class at NCCU late last fall, long after the case had imploded, not one student believed that the indicted players was innocent. I’ve spoken to two people who attended the April 11 NCCU forum; both have said that Hall’s comments reflected the general sentiment in the auditorium that day.
8) “I’m told by a professor [Peter Wood?] who teaches several of the lacrosse players that between the rape and when the story broke, his students kept having to break meetings because they had newly scheduled team-bonding activities they had to attend. Needless to say, this is exactly the opposite of what should have happened—team unity should have been undermined, not built up!” (Duke History graduate student Jacob Remes, March 29, 2006) This soundbite illustrated the bankruptcy of the Duke far left last spring. Start with an untrue, hearsay allegation. Then abandon the traditional approach of the academy (defending due process) to transform the University into an arm of the state. Amazingly, given his definitive statement that a “rape” occurred and his stunning claim that the University should have sought to isolate its own students, Remes asserted in a February e-mail, “I have had no role in any criminal case against Duke undergraduates, and I have expressed no public opinion on the guilt or innocence of any accused individuals.”
7) “No.” (Group of 88 member Paula McClain, July 13, 2006). The newly elected chairwoman of Duke’s Academic Council responding to a July e-mail asking whether she would endorse a public statement demanding due process for the three students at her own institution targeted by Mike Nifong.
6) “The self assurance in the statement issued yesterday by the team that they will be exonerated by the results of the DNA testing makes me wonder if we’ve gotten the full story about who was at the house that night. Were there others present who in fact carried out the rape and who are being protected by everyone else who was there? How do we know who was there?” (Group of 88 member Kim Curtis, March 29, 2006). With that statement, a Duke professor (and political science colleague of McClain’s) had suggested, in writing and without any evidence at all, that two students in her own class were accomplices to rape. “Coincidentally,” after Curtis made this allegation, the two students’ grades plummeted: both received a C- on their second course paper, and both received an F on their third and final course paper.
5) “Mr. Rosenberg said he did so because he was concerned with the prevalence of alcohol on campus and bothered by ‘affluent kids violating the law to get exploited women to take their clothes off when they could get as much hookup as they wanted from rich and attractive Duke coeds.’” (Group of 88 member Alex Rosenberg, quoted in
4) “Those lacrosse players met the profile; why weren’t they arrested? Is there a double standard of justice, law, and order without justice?” (Harris Johnson, at April 11 NCCU forum, after noting that, in the past, innocent black people had been arrested who met a profile.) This statement appalled even Mike Nifong—not an easy thing to do. The former Durham Democratic Party official reappeared in the news the day after the election, when he rejoiced that Nifong’s victory showed “that justice can’t be bought by a bunch of rich white boys from
3) “To suggest [the indicted players] were well behaved: Hitler never beat his wife either. So what?” (Wendy Murphy, June 5, 2006) Debaters often cite the “Hitler rule”—the first side to employ a Nazi analogy automatically loses, since such a move shows that the debater has no legitimate argument to make. This certainly was the case on May 3, when Murphy informed CNN viewers, “I bet one or more of the players was, you know, molested or something as a child.”
2) “If our students did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn’t do it, whatever they did is bad enough.” (Duke president Richard Brodhead, to the Durham Chamber of Commerce, two days after the indictments of Reade Seligmann and Colin Finnerty.) In recent weeks, the Duke administration has maintained that the president consistently upheld the presumption of innocence. That claim is difficult to reconcile with the above statement. “Whatever” Seligmann and Finnerty “did” was to attend a party they played no role in organizing, and perhaps drink some beer. To suggest that behavior in any way is “bad,” much less could somehow justify the treatment they received, is heartless.
1) “There was evidence of DNA of Seligmann [sic] who lived in that house [sic].” (Legal “analyst” Georgia Goslee, August 7, 2006) This case has been characterized by the state's willingness to change the theory of the “crime” to fit the evidence. Goslee didn’t bother with such trivialities—she simply changed the “evidence.” But what else could be expected from a figure hired to comment on a case in
This case has featured a race-to-the-bottom element. That such a list could exist--pairing prestigious academics with know-nothing figures like Georgia Goslee or Jacob Remes--can only depress.