Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Christine Brennan Offers Insights on the Lacrosse Case

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.


skwilli said...

Ditto my comment on the last post. Print media is dying for a reason and Brennan fits right in with that "dinosaur after the meteor has hit".

Jim in Greensboro said...

KC, the 'net is rife with UVA/Duke comparisons. Take this one from ABC News :
"The charges against all three were eventually dismissed when the accuser recanted her story..."
I don't remember Crystal ever "recanting" her story...

Anonymous said...

Is Brennan a Communist?

Anonymous said...

KC -- It is reaching the point where it is not worth getting aggravated about the lies and misrepresentations from the press. Their only use is to continue to stockpile evidence of permanent reputation damage since they only make idiots of themselves. It will never stop until a columnist or two is bankrupted, professionally ruined, and forced into menial labor for knowingly distributing false and malicious information at a citizen's expense.

As far as the megalomaniacs in the press are concerned, no one was held accountable, and therefore that validates spreading false and malicious disinformation.
Ironically, I read recently that John Feinstein, a truly mean spirited person who long ago forfeited his credibility, got irritated that his wikipedia entry noted how spectacularly wrong he was in the Nifong rape hoax. His response? Join wikipedia and have the reference removed. Destroy the evidence. Interesting take for a reporter.

Laugh at the pathetic efforts to revivie the glory days, when they could say whatever they felt like and the public took as gospel truth.


Topher said...

Far from revealing cultural problems with the world of the lacrosse, the UVa case reveals major problems with how we are raising our young women to choose their mates, and with the domestic violence support network that has been constructed across America.

I find it extremely difficult to believe that Huguely's behavior towards previous paramours was not known by Love and her teammates or could not have been predicted. And yet she, raised in educated upper-middle class America, chose to date Huguely.

As much as I don't want to turn the hysterics' arguments into my own, if there's a problem with the "culture of lacrosse" vis a vis drunken parties and alleged murderers, then there's a serious cultural problem with a social system that allows a peer to choose a psychopath as a boyfriend.

There's one ironic aspect of the two cases nobody has discussed. We've built an enormous network of domestic violence and sexual assualt support in American higher education.

This is in spite of the fact that reasonable analyses show that rape and sexual assault on college campuses is very low. It is possible that all this awareness is producing the culture of low sexual violence, but on the other hand with all the noise in the system perhaps college women can't pick out the truly dangerous men if they have been taught to assume all men are that way. (Activists have simply used the low numbers to allege a conspiracy of silence.)

In any case, the system we have built is modeled after the Duluth principle that men in general are violent and controlling by nature and must be restrained and brought to bear by Inquisition-ary discipline boards where up is down. (This presumption is why it is OK to institute behavior modification programs for college men but not encourage college women to choose better mates, which would be dismissed as "blaming the victim.")

But in both cases, the system failed miserably - in one instance deploying itself in abject hysteria against obviously innocent men, in the other instance doing absolutely nothing while a pathologically violent individual apparently assaulted two women in sequence and caused one's death.

In medicine this is called "sensitivity" and "specificity" - the problem of false-negative and false-positive results. It is also a fundamental question of legal policy: how do you act tough on criminals without ensnaring innocent people? The DV system answer has been to teach a culture of victimization and under the guise of caution preach fear of men, especially wealthy and white ones.

A perusal of blogs and websites on the male experience of divorce, for example, brings up dozens of cases of false DV claims used to gain custody or other baubles in divorce. The system is set up to believe the accuser no matter what.

Meanwhile we get cases like Huguely, where a truly dangerous individual was totally unrestrained by society. The system appears to be broken.

foxlets14 said...

Dr. Johnson,

Moving the players' case toward a public resolution should help to stem the problem of the media narrative.

Do you have any information that would explain the court's delay in deciding Defendants' Motions to Dismiss? I assume that discovery has been blocked pending this decision. Frankly, the inactivity since October, 2008, is troubling. "Justice delayed is justice denied!"

Anonymous said...

Ahhh... but look at the wiki discussion page for Feinstein... it's there for all to see... maybe not in the detail that is justified, but it certainly raises a flag. (We were taught in college to always look at the wiki discussion page for context and bias checks).

Quasimodo said...

"Do you have any information that would explain the court's delay in deciding Defendants' Motions to Dismiss?"

The judge had the option to permit testimony to be taken at the start of the suits. Evidently he did not view those suits as exceptional enough nor understand that the issues involved were bound up with getting the full facts of what took place in 2006 out before the public. So he ruled that in the interests of "judicial economy" depositions would not be taken until all other court business was cleared up.

That meant a delay of over 1000 days so far. In the meantime, one witness has died; and if anyone thinks Durham has not "lost" any of its records in the interim, I have a bridge for him to buy in Brooklyn.

If testimony had been allowed more than two years ago, there would not be comparisons made now between the Duke case and the Virginia tragedy. The delay has permitted the players to be injured even more, with the old, false narrative dredged up again.

So in this instance, justice delayed has not only been justice denied, but also
old injustices given a new lease on life.

foxlets14 said...

Quasimodo....thanks. To take this long to decide a motion to dismiss is unconscionable. Might those vacancies on the 4th circuit have something to do with the delay? Judge Beaty was nominated before and is a Democrat. His nomination by Clinton languished for a record1000 days and was never acted upon, thanks to opposition by Jesse Helms, who accused Beaty of being an activist judge. Obama ought to love that! The court having muzzled the plaintiffs' attorneys, are the defendants now playing the game "The Chicago Way"? Nah, they wouldn't do that, would they?

Quasimodo said...

"We all remember in 2006 when members of the Duke lacrosse team were accused of raping a stripper. While those allegations turned out to be false, what happened with Duke's team is [still] instructive in thinking about Huguely..."--Slate

The above sentence (unfortunately only a representative sample) could not and would not have been written if the full truth about the Durham case had been made public by now.

The issues in the Duke suits include such tangent issues as restoring faith in the judiciary and the judicial system (badly damaged by the doings in Durham); repairing a legal system which is innately biased against defendants (no speedy trial law; no grand jury transcripts; no right to a probable cause hearing; rape laws which do not require corroboration with evidence for conviction; DAs who can hand-pick judges and set court calendars) and much more.

But apparently those issues missed the observation of the court. Instead, among other things, we saw Nifong permitted to delay matters for a year while he claimed bankruptcy for debts of $180 million.

A key witness committed suicide in the interim--and a piece of the puzzle was lost. I'm sure that other witnesses will now try to assert that their memories have grown dim. Plaintiffs' cases have been damaged; defendant's cases
rendered more immune.

But apparently this clearly foreseeable result was not worthy to be considered beside "judicial economy"--as if waiting years to get your case into court and your witnesses under oath should normally take years (and the court will be indifferent to such delays).

If all this was intended to restore confidence in the judicial system, for me at least it has not worked...

Anonymous said...

Quasimodo...Bleak House revisited. Which witness committed suicide?


KC Johnson said...

To the 5.52:

Wes Covington.

One Spook said...

This piece, A Cross Lacrosse Souldn't Bear, apart from taking a cheap shot at Penn State's athletic program, is the best commentary on these "Comparisons" between the UVA incident and the Duke Rape Hoax I've seen anywhere.

Author David Whitley did his homework and even highlighted the incredibly racist, shameful behavior of Houston Baker.

One Spook

Anonymous said...


"DURHAM -- The woman who in 2006 falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape isn't getting a fair shake from the court system, according to an Angier man who helped tell her story."

Anonymous said...


That is excruciating. Would to God he could have found another way to atone.


Anonymous said...

Millions of hits to your blog, and it's almost like it was all for nothing. Go figure.

Quasimodo said...

"That is excruciating. Would to God he could have found another way to atone."

Most likely (though I have no way to know for sure) Covington's actions resulted from domestic troubles.

In any event, whatever testimony he could have given is now lost. A number of other persons connected with the case have health/weight problems.

As well, there are the members 40+ families awaiting the full vindication of their sons. I have no idea what the statistical likelihood would be that out of say, 250 persons involved in one way or another with this case, most of them in late middle-age, all of them would still be alive after several years. But certainly those involved are deserving of seeing closure and justice.

(But no matter--there is "judicial economy" to consider.)

Bleak House Justice is one thing; a deliberate determination to use stalling as a device to avoid giving testimony, is something else altogether; and given that the first rule of federal civil procedure stresses the need to "secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding"

I have to wonder just what has been "just", "speedy", or "inexpensive" about the manner in which Plaintiff's claims have been handled.


Topher said...

One Spook,

That's an awesome article!

Topher said...

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Compost wrote a story this week blaming not the "lacrosse culture" itself as much as Huguely's teammates for - well, it's not really clear what they were supposed to do. Something about reining him in, or warning Love, or somesuch nebulous responsibility.

What's weird is she says nothing about the failure of the women's team to protect Love (people who were in a much better position to do so). If we are going to start assigning blame to people other than the accused himself, it needs to go around to everyone.

If the report is true that GH had already been abusive to another member of the team, then I think Jenkins' column is even more off base. Why weren't the women keeping a buddy watch over Love? Was she armed or trained in self-defense? It goes back to my previous comment that for all its unfair hysterics against men, the domestic abuse warning system plainly failed in a legitimate case of a dangerous psychopath.

Nor did Jenkins mention what I saw yesterday - the Virginia men's team wearing undershirts with "One Love" written on them. It has escaped some commentators that the teams are probably like Duke's - tightly intermingled with lots of mutual friendships. I'm guessing the men are grieving her loss as much as her own teammates are.

Topher said...

One other thing - wasn't Virginia's coach the one who subtly chided the NCAA for granting the Duke players extra eligibility?

I wonder how he feels now that he understands how funky sh** (I really couldn't come up with any other way of saying it) can happen to your team on a moment's notice?

Anonymous said...

The crazy race left is trying to use this case to retry the Duke case. They still haven't recovered from that epic humiliation and discreditation.

Sean S.