Freed from whatever editorial and legal oversight existed at Scribner’s, press-tour Cohan has asserted that “something did happen in that bathroom.” (N&O) He has claimed defense attorneys manipulated the media. (Cosmopolitan) He’s taunted the falsely accused players as “Duke lax bros.” (Twitter) And he’s inflated his wild (and almost certainly incorrect) claim of a $60 million settlement into $100 million in settlement costs. (Daily News)
In the past two days, author Cohan has repeatedly applied this pattern of more aggressive statements to the opinions of former BOT chairman Bob Steel. In an e-mail to Stuart Taylor and me, Steel has now responded to the author’s description of his beliefs on the case.
The book’s treatment of Steel is a classic example of Cohan's argument-by-insinuation. On p. 534, Cohan frames his discussion of Steel to leave the impression that while Steel suggests the three accused students were appropriately exonerated, he also believes that someone on the team committed some sort of crime. (I note this presentation of Steel’s role in my forthcoming Commentary review.) But Cohan never directly quotes Steel asserting that “something happened.” He just tees up the question for readers.
In two television appearances over the past two days, however, Cohan has been unequivocal about Steel’s beliefs on the case.
In a Tuesday appearance on Bloomberg TV, Cohan linked Steel’s perspective on the case with that of Mike Nifong and Crystal Mangum. The author stated, at 4.03 of the linked video, “Between Nifong, Crystal, and Bob Steel, the consensus seems to be something happened in that bathroom that no one would be proud of.” [emphases added]
Cohan seems to have carefully chosen this particular phrase. Yesterday, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Cohan again discussed the common perspectives between Nifong, Mangum, and Steel. At 2.46 of the linked video, Cohan informed the MSNBC panel that he spoke to the “quite credible(!!)” Nifong, who “believes something happened.” He spoke to the “victim” [sic], who “believes something still happened.” And “Bob Steel, of course, the [former] chairman of the Board of Trustees, he believes something happened in that bathroom that none of us would be proud of.” [emphases added]
- William D. Cohan, yesterday morning, to a national cable audience: “Bob Steel . . . believes something happened in that bathroom.”
- Bob Steel, yesterday evening, via e-mail: “I have no view now, nor have ever had a view of what if anything happened in the bathroom. Period.”
- Duke had to make this go away.
- Duke had to basically protect its brand.
- Duke had litigation exposure.
- Duke had to stop it.
- Steel provided to Cohan important insights about Duke’s thinking in negotiating a settlement with the falsely accused students, but for reasons unknown, Cohan did not include these items in the 614 pages of his book, reserving them instead for the “Morning Joe” audience.
- Caught off guard by a question from a “Morning Joe” panelist, and desperate to portray the settlement with the accused students in a harshly negative, conspiratorial light, Cohan improperly attributed Steel’s stated reasons for Duke’s decision to cancel the lacrosse season (an act hostile to the lacrosse players) in 2006 to Duke’s decision to legally settle with the lacrosse players in 2007.
- William D. Cohan, to a national cable audience: “Bob Steel . . . believes something happened in that bathroom.”
- Bob Steel: “I have no view now, nor have ever had a view of what if anything happened in the bathroom. Period.”