A variety of figures whose performance in the lacrosse case drew widespread condemnation surfaced in the news over the past week—with scant, if any, suggestions that they had learned any lessons from their misbehavior.
In a race to the bottom for lack of integrity, it’s hard to choose between Selena Roberts and Alex Rodriguez. Now working for Sports Illustrated, Roberts broke the story that Rodriguez had tested positive for steroids in 2003. In an interview about her story with the MLB Network’s Bob Costas, Roberts affirmed that her obligation as a journalist was to “find the truth.” She expanded on this in an interview with ESPN Radio, where, according to Harry Stein, she opined, “What we tried to do is be very specific about what we heard and make sure that we found credible information and reliable people, and that we buttoned up every single hole to make sure to be absolutely right . . . It’s like being in court—once you say something, you can’t just strike it.”
It’s not clear when Roberts adopted this definition of her profession’s aim: her writing on the Duke case demonstrated an aversion to, rather than a quest for, the truth.
Perhaps Roberts’ focus on Rodriguez is fitting justice. Just as Rodriguez’s career will be forever tarnished by his admission that he broke the law over a several-year period, so too will Roberts be forever tarnished by her decision to set aside the standards of her profession to advance a preconceived ideological agenda, use her Times column to spew falsehoods, and then refuse to own up to her errors.
Selena Roberts looks like a beacon of truth and righteousness, however, when compared to Wendy Murphy. In the lacrosse case, the adjunct law professor compiled a record for untruths second only to that of Mike Nifong. (New England School of Law’s dean did not respond to repeated e-mails asking how he could continue to employ—as a professor of law—a figure who publicly and repeatedly stated outright falsehoods.)
The adjunct law professor was back in the news last week, in an article on “sexting” (teenagers sending nude pictures of themselves or their boyfriends/girlfriends as text messages). The Boston Herald, identifying Murphy as someone “who lectures on sex crimes at the New England School of Law,” reported the adjunct professor as saying that “sexting” almost has become an “epidemic.” Murphy added, “I know it seems heavy-handed to bring child porn charges. Law enforcement is using the only tool it has for what has become a huge problem nationwide.”
The evidence Murphy cited to show that “sexting” has almost become an “epidemic,” and that it “has become a huge problem nationwide”? None. But why let evidence get in the way of a preferred storyline, even if it involves support for charging 13-year-olds with child porn?
The other “expert” quoted in the Herald story was Sari Locker, a self-described “sex educator and TV personality,” whose official website photo is a bit on the . . . revealing . . . side. It’s good to see that Murphy is continuing to keep good company.
By the end of the lacrosse case, virtually the only publication that treated Murphy seriously was the Wilmington Journal, where Cash Michaels would regularly quote, without skepticism, from Murphy and either NAACP “case monitor” Irving Joyner or North Carolina NAACP head William Barber.
As the highest-profile case of prosecutorial misconduct in modern U.S. history was occurring in his midst, Barber did all he could to prop up the case offered by the perpetrator of that prosecutorial misconduct. Whether it was publishing an error-laden, guilt-presuming 82-point “memorandum of law” or going to the Duke Chapel to continue his organization’s character assault on Duke students, Barber spent more than a year strenuously advancing Mike Nifong’s efforts.
Last week, Barber was honored with the Paul Green Award by, of all, organizations, the North Carolina ACLU.
I share Barber’s opposition to the death penalty, and agree wholeheartedly with the NAACP’s efforts against the practice. That said: How can an organization committed to upholding civil liberties extend an award to a figure whose public conduct in such a high-profile case had exhibited an utter indifference to the importance of civil liberties?
Finally, Clark University has chosen to honor Karla Holloway. Next week, the Group of 88 extremist will give the keynote address at a Clark University conference entitled, “Evolutionary Momentum in African American Studies — Legacy and Future Direction.”
Holloway’s honor serves as a reminder of a principal academic lesson from the lacrosse case: in an academic environment dominated by peer review, terms like “excellence” or “quality” mean very different things than what non-academics might expect. That an Ivy League institution like Cornell could hire Grant Farred while hailing his scholarly credentials as excellent, or a top-tier liberal arts college like Clark could bring Holloway in to give a keynote address shows how such inherently subjective terms as “excellence” or “quality” are defined in the contemporary academy.