Keep in mind, as outlined in the post below, the enormous differences between the facts of the Duke lacrosse case and what has emerged about the murder charges against former UVA lacrosse player George Huguely, and then ponder the following from USA Today columnist Christine Brennan:
Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but there's no escaping the fact that the sport they played is lacrosse, in the news again for all the wrong reasons, again. The Duke story is four years old now, and while the fabricated rape charges have long since been dismissed, sordid details about the evening remain on the record: the drinking, the strippers, the racial epithets.
It’s quite true, as Brennan points out, that “drinking” remains on the record. According to various surveys, the majority of college students drink alcohol. Is Brennan seriously maintaining that such behavior is “sordid”? It’s also quite true, as Brennan points out, that the decision to hire “strippers” for a spring break party remains on the record—although I’m sure a lot of college students wouldn’t want to be judged on the basis of the most tasteless thing they did during spring break. As for “racial epithets”? One player’s racial epithet in response to Kim Roberts’ racial taunt is “on the record.”
But perhaps Brennan has access to additional “on the record” sources, as part of her effort to link the “record” of the Duke lacrosse players to that of an accused murderer? After all, in spring 2006, Brennan opined confidently about the case.
In late March 2006, almost directly mirroring the thesis of the infamous Selena Roberts column that appeared in the same period, Brennan sarcastically noted that the lacrosse players were “giving us all a whole new definition of the word teamwork” by refusing to cooperate with the police investigation. Of course, the captains had voluntarily cooperated to an extraordinary degree, and the supervisor of the police investigation—Mike Nifong—was refusing to hear from the players’ attorneys, who wanted to share with him the exculpatory evidence in their possession. The on-line version of Brennan’s column contains no correction of her factually incorrect information.
Having based her column on a false premise, Brennan continued:
Perhaps if no one is found guilty of any criminal activity in this unseemly affair, the collective silence [sic] of the Blue Devils someday will be seen as admirable. For now, though, the sports world's vaunted concept of team is reaching a frightening extreme . . . Is this really how a team is supposed to behave?
Looking at writings such as the above might prompt another question: “Is this really how a prominent columnist is supposed to behave?”
As evidence of the players’ possible innocence mounted, Brennan shifted gears—in a transformation on the case similar to that exhibited by members of the Group of 88, such as William Chafe. In a mid-May 2006 column, she without explanation dropped all references to the significance of the players’ alleged refusal to cooperate with the inquiry—her initial take on the case—and instead went into a character attack, writing of “the Duke men's lacrosse mess, a raunchy Animal House tale even if the rape charges against the three players prove to be untrue.” For good measure, she added a class angle, deeming the matter “an illuminating window into the world of 21st-century college athletics, a world of privilege, of drinking and of naiveté when it comes to the reach and power of the Internet.”
After Nifong’s criminal case collapsed, Brennan repositioned herself as a media critic of the affair, suggesting to CNN that the early coverage was “an awful performance, an embarrassing time, I think, for journalism . . . I think some people lost their minds in this story.”
She didn’t bring up her own “embarrassing” columns. And now, with her decision to link the behavior of an accused murderer with that of the Duke lacrosse players, she seems to have returned to her May 2006 mindset, but without bothering to mention her previous mockery of the falsely accused players’ due process rights or her initial column’s peddling of a false narrative.
To borrow a phrase, perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Brennan didn’t reference her earlier writings about the lacrosse case in her most recent USA Today commentary.