WGBH’s current lineup includes a program called “Greater Boston,” which
examines the region's top news and newsmakers. Hosted by Emily Rooney, Greater Boston, combines feature reports and in–studio interviews, providing a fresh approach to and in-depth analysis of timely news, politics, and public affairs issues of local interest.
A team of contributors provides commentary on topics ranging from breaking news to community concerns, politics to media, education to the environment. The week ends with Friday’s Beat the Press, a lively discussion of what the media covered that week, and why.
Last Friday’s “Beat the Press” featured a roundtable discussion of the “
The panel had an intelligent discussion of the article, noting the holes in
Around six minutes into the segment (which is available in streaming video, and so can only be linked to at the start of the broadcast—scroll around three-quarters of the way through), former Globe columnist Eileen McNamara brought up the media’s handling of the Duke case. The following exchange occurred:
McNamara: We’re not going to get an answer [about
] until we have the facts. I mean, let’s remember the Duke case. [Putting herself in the mindset of reporters from spring 2006]: It is easy enough to speculate what might have happened, but something did happen, let’s find out what it was before we rush to judgment— Jena
Rooney: We don’t know what happened in the Duke case. We never will.
Mark Jurkowitz [panelist]: But history sort of rendered its verdict on that one.
Rooney: Something happened.
The conversation then returned to the
The Attorney General's report produced a minute-by-minute time line asserting that nothing happened. The Disciplinary Hearings Committee chairman, Lane Williamson, asserted at Mike Nifong’s ethics trial that the evidence in the case showed that nothing happened. Indeed, Nifong himself has now admitted that nothing happened.
Rooney, it appears, chose to sit on a major story. In asserting that “we don’t know what happened in the Duke case. We never will . . . something happened,” Rooney was implying that she either:
(a) was privy to information that the Attorney General and the State Bar did not possess; or
(b) that the Attorney General and the State Bar had engaged in a cover-up to prevent the “truth” from being known.
After the program, I e-mailed WGBH for comment on Rooney’s assertions, and asked if she would be willing to share her evidence publicly. I did not receive a reply; if one arrives, I will post it.
It’s worth noting that Rooney is a well-regarded journalist, hardly a Wendy Murphy-style ideologue. She also has a personal connection to the news program whose prize-winning work exposed Mike Nifong's misconduct to the country, 60 Minutes. (Rooney's father is 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney.) Her remarks, therefore, were especially disturbing.
Rooney's comments serve as only the latest example of the “something happened” crusade. Recall, for instance, the stunning immediate post-exoneration assertion of another figure of considerable national prestige, sports columnist John Feinstein:
Since “everything but rape” included the other false charges (sexual assault and kidnapping), Feinstein, like Rooney, was asserting that the Attorney General and the State Bar had engaged in some sort of cover-up to prevent the “truth” from coming out.
In the end, nothing can prevent figures such as Feinstein or Rooney from allowing personal biases, prejudices, or simple journalistic sloppiness to override the facts. But the continued willingness of prominent media personalities to engage in the “something happened” charade has direct bearing on the three players’ civil suit against
For instance, would Feinstein, Rooney, and like-minded figures be able to engage in their ill-founded speculation if:
- DPD Cpl. David Addison had not repeatedly made false statements about the evidence in the case;
- DPD official spokesperson Kammie Michael had not, falsely, stated on March 28, 2006 that the DPD knew for certain that Kim Roberts had not made the first 911 call;
- Nifong had not engaged in his slanderous pre-primary publicity crusade;
- Nifong and Mark Gottlieb had not conspired to violate the DPD’s official policy on lineups and run a third, suspects-only, lineup;
- Gottlieb’s superiors in the DPD had not stood aside as the lineup was implemented, and than rationalized the decision thereafter;
- Gottlieb had not given false testimony to the grand jury, to the effect that Mangum gave consistent stories after her initial encounter with SANE nurse-in-training Tara Levicy on the night of March 14th;
- Dr. Brian Meehan had not agreed to produce a report that specifically excluded mention of the multiple unidentified males’ DNA found in Crystal Mangum’s rape kit;
- DSI owner Richard Clark had not sat idly by as Meehan prepared his report, which violated both state law and DSI company policy;
- Nifong had not repeatedly lied to the court about the scope and content of his conversations with Meehan.
Without this pattern of misconduct by Nifong, DPD employees, and DSI, there would have been no case—and thus no possibility for the likes of Rooney or Feinstein to continue to float their theories.
In an interview last week, former Duke and current
Only a small fraction of the public accepting the Rooney/Feinstein version of events would mean that millions of people would occupy the “something happened” contingent. The responsibility for that outcome is Durham’s and Durham’s alone.Hap tip: T.N.