In a recent appearance on the Jim Rome radio show, former New York Times columnist Selena Roberts continued her campaign of distortions and outright lies about her writings on the lacrosse case. In some ways, her remarks—part of a desperate bid to retain her credibility, so readers and the media will trust the anonymously sourced conclusions in her A-Rod book—are worse than her initial columns at the lacrosse case. Those, in theory, could be blamed on a temporary lapse in journalistic standards and an unfortunate rush to judgment. Her current remarks, however, can only be attributed to a conscious attempt to deceive.
Lie: The “Culture,” Not the “Crime”
Here, Roberts asserts that her writings were neutral on the crime, and focused solely on the team's alleged culture.
This statement is, quite simply, a deliberate falsehood. Roberts’ initial column on the case (March 31, 2006) inextricably linked the “crime” to the “culture.” The article’s thesis: that the team’s “anti-snitch” culture explained why “none [of the players] have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account.”
That claim, of course, was another falsehood, one that Roberts has refused to correct, despite being given repeated opportunities to do so. (The three captains voluntarily gave lengthy statements, without counsel, and their DNA, and offered to take lie detector tests.)
Moreover, Roberts' writings on the case in 2006 did not criticize Nifong at all, while her 2007 column portrayed the disgraced ex-DA as a bumbling "Columbo," someone who apparently made innocent errors in investigating a terrible crime, thereby allowing the guilty to go free.
Distortion: “Pornographic” Pictures
Apparently sensing that her initial defenses had not gone well, Roberts introduced this new allegation in the Rome interview.
The assertion is nothing short of bizarre. Anyone listening to Roberts would believe that the lacrosse players—as part of their apparently depraved culture—established a website to post titillating photos of Crystal Mangum. The photos, of course, were released by defense lawyers to the mainstream media only after Mike Nifong had refused to look at them; and the photos were released to establish a definitive timeline showing that Mangum’s allegations could not be true.
That the media then broadcast the photos, rather than simply describing them or showing the time-stamps, is an indictment of the media’s culture, not the players’.
One other, obvious, point: these “pornographic” pictures hadn’t been released anywhere when Selena Roberts wrote her 2006 column asserting that the players had engaged in conduct “that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings.” So whatever prompted that stunning, craven claim, it wasn’t “pornographic” photos that now so concern Ms. Roberts.
Inventing Evidence: Racial “Slurs”
It is “indisputable” that one player responded with a racial slur to Kim Roberts’ racial taunt, outside the house, at a time when most of the team had already departed. (Since, according to most accounts, Mangum was passed out by this stage, she heard neither the Roberts taunt nor the racial slur.) It would, it seems to me, to be perfectly fair to at most say that one player on the team was racist. But how does Roberts get from one player’s likely racism to an indictment of the entire team’s “culture”? By inventing “indisputable” evidence of multiple players using racial slurs, directed at both women.
Ignoring Evidence: Attack on the Team’s “Culture”
But—as Roberts surely knows, at this stage of the game—a comprehensive investigation of the team’s “culture” occurred. There’s plenty of “doubt” about her portrayal of the team’s culture. Indeed, the report of the Coleman Committee all but completely refuted Roberts’ cultural critique.
Is Roberts disputing the Coleman Committee’s findings? That would seem to be the only way she could support her assertion that “there’s no doubt” about the portrayal of the team’s culture—a “Lord of the Flies” regime, in her words—she offered in her columns.
Excuse: They Were Just Columns!
Responding to on-target criticism from Jason Whitlock—if she made factual errors she refuses to admit in her Times columns, why should we trust her anonymously sourced assertions on A-Rod—Roberts offered this remarkable excuse:
I’m sure this casual dismissal of the standards in her columns delighted her former bosses at the Times.
Perhaps . . . just perhaps . . . the Tmes will be miffed enough at Roberts to run a correction for her myriad factual errors?