Monday, May 31, 2010

ESPN: "Questions Remain"

[Update, II, 6/1, 6.39pm: For an example of how a publication committed to journalistic integrity might have handled the connection between the lacrosse case and the 2010 championship, take a look at this moving article on the Loftus family from the Syosset Patch. Brothers Dan and Chris were members of the 2006 team; brother Eddie was a member of the Duke championship squad. Their father, Brian, is a retired New York fire captain (not exactly the elitist image upon which lacrosse critics want to focus) who was one of the most courageous voices speaking out against the media crusade against the Duke players in spring 2006.]

[Update, 6/1, 12.01am: ESPN's onslaught against the falsely accused players and their teammates continues. In a column ostensibly hailing the 2010 Duke lacrosse national championship victory, ESPN's Dana O'Neil claims that since 2006, the members of the team found it hard to wear their jerseys, since they "knew" that "the words 'Duke lacrosse' were viewed more as scarlet letters than banners of pride," that "Duke lacrosse equated to scandal and shame." Even though the players were exonerated, "the stigma still existed."

Why? Because, since 2006, "there was, after all, nothing else to associate Duke lacrosse with [emphasis added, sentence-ending preposition in original]."

Original post below.]

Via NewsBusters, an extraordinary item from ESPN anchor Steve Weissman. Introducing highlights to the Duke-Virginia national semifinals (won by Duke), Weissman made the following observation:

“Two of the top lacrosse teams in the country, dealing with two of the worst stories college athletes have faced in recent memory. Just three years ago, the Blue Devils were involved in a devastating scandal in which three players were charged with sexual assault. All three were exonerated, but the questions remain.”

First of all, the obvious error: the Duke so-called “devastating scandal” occurred in 2006, not 2007, as Weissman claimed. And, of course, the strained comparison: in the UVA case, a player on the team has admitted—according to police—repeatedly banging a woman's head against a wall, which left her dead. In the Duke case, people unrelated to the team—the prosecutor, the police, the media, the professoriate—engaged in wrongdoing. Yet Weissman lumps the two episodes together, as “two of the worst stories college athletes have faced in recent memory.”

But by far the most troubling aspect of Weissman’s commentary came in his assertion that “questions remain” about the players’ exoneration. Weissman, it appears, is dissatisfied with the comprehensive inquiry by the North Carolina AG’s office.

So what questions, specifically, does the ESPN reporter have? I e-mailed ESPN’s press office to ask; I received no reply.

Perhaps Weissman was referring to Eric Adelson’s April 11, 2006 ESPN column citing an “anonymous” source who “was present at the hospital on the night of the alleged incident,” and who claimed that Crystal Mangum (this Crystal Mangum, from a photo taken two days later) was “beat up . . . pretty banged up”; that “there were bruises on her face, neck, and arms”; and that there “were injuries to the woman’s pelvic area.”

There are a lot of “questions” that “remain” about that column—chiefly, why ESPN never repudiated it. (I e-mailed Adelson in 2008; he said he stood by the story. I also e-mailed ESPN’s then-ombudsman about the seeming misuse of anonymous sources; she never replied.) As the Attorney General's report made clear, no evidence exists to corroborate the claims of Adelson's single anonymous source—which, as a thread in the old Liestoppers convincingly argued, was probably former Duke Police Officer Sara Falcon.

Is Weissman’s screed now suggesting that the Adelson column represents ESPN’s party line on the lacrosse case?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Character, Ctd.

A few more items, from both sides of the question, regarding themes from the post below.

Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were both named to the 2010 Scholar All-America Team.

Finnerty’s individual awards were listed in the post below; Seligmann received the IMLCA Boston Market Humanitarian Award in 2008; in 2010, he was named first team All-Ivy, All-New England, and a USILA Scholar All-American.


As to the Group of 88: Emory professor Mark Bauerlein did a post at the Chronicle for Higher Education blog noting how my survey of the Group’s post-case activity—which found that many Group members had either been named to deanships or been hired away from Duke for more lucrative opportunities at other institutions—seemed to conflict with the typical victimization narrative of the academy’s far-left fringe. Indeed, that so many of the Group members have been rewarded despite (or perhaps because of?) their behavior is nothing short of astonishing.

Bauerlein noted, “Johnson doesn't mention any signer of the document who has suffered one bit from its publication. If readers of Brainstorm know of anybody who did sign it and has been called to account for it, please add a comment.”

Several commenters expressed outrage at Bauerlein’s post. Wrote Sandy Thatcher,

Mark conveniently ignores the fact that the Duke lacrosse team had a reputation for bad behavior before the incident occurred that gave rise to the “rush to judgment.” It is not as though all these Duke lacrosse players were paragons of virtue. I recall one particularly scurrilous e-mail that was uncovered during the investigation. The players who were named as defendants by the district attorney may have been innocent of the crimes alleged, but there is a history here that helps explain why so many people did assume the worst when this incident happened. The players were no moral saints.

First of all, of course, the players were innocent, not “may have been innocent.” Second, as Bauerlein appropriately comments, “do you really think that ‘a reputation for bad behavior’ is an excuse for the rush to judgment at Duke?” Apparently Ms. Thatcher does.

Several readers suggested that the Group didn’t or probably didn’t do anything much wrong. Opined one, “The ad was premature and made all sorts of bad assumptions, but the same could be said of nearly every op-ed article ever published. Did newspapers and magazines fire all their political commentators who went along with the Iraq WMD claims? (And no, this isn't a tu quoque argument – it’s an analogy. And I don’t think those commentators should have been fired for being wrong.)”

This argument is a rather peculiar one. Most newspapers—to the best of my knowledge—do not sign contracts with their op-ed writers that contain clauses like this one, from Duke’s Faculty Handbook: “Members of the faculty expect Duke students to meet high standards of performance and behavior. It is only appropriate, therefore, that the faculty adheres to comparably high standards in dealing with students . . . Students are fellow members of the university community, deserving of respect and consideration in their dealings with the faculty.”

But perhaps this Bauerlein reader considers dozens of professors signing a statement asserting unequivocally that something “happened” to Crystal Mangum, falsely asserting that the statement contained endorsements from five academic departments, and thanking protesters who had (among other things) urged castration of the lacrosse captains to constitute treating Duke students with “respect” as “fellow members of the university community.”

Moreover, the Group’s behavior contributed to Duke’s (wise) decision to reach a sizable out-of-court settlement with the falsely accused players. I’m no expert in the newspaper industry, but I suspect that few newspapers would willingly keep on staff an op-ed writer whose columns had exposed the paper to massive legal liability.

Then, there’s the typical taunter: “And where oh where is Mark Bauerlein today? Still stuck in the same old job at Emory, still neglecting his students while he does his daily ‘Dumpster Diving,’ digging and digging ever so deeper to find any and all trash and garbage he can get his hands on - either to discredit someone or something or to vent his own frustration at being seen as not professionally worthy of being elevated in his own career.

The last I looked, the average SAT score of incoming Emory freshmen is about the same as that of Duke freshmen (or, for that matter, as that of freshmen at Williams, where I used to teach). But in the world of this (anonymous) commenter, Bauerlein apparently spends his days consumed with jealousy about colleagues at another institution, because he just can’t take his fate in life: that is, teaching at one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.

Such ad hominem attacks, it seems to me, are not only rarely logical, but are also revealing of the attacker’s character.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Times of stress can reveal character.

Newsdayhas profiled Collin Finnerty upon his graduation from Loyola. The entire article is here (alas, behind Newsday’s paywall), and is very much worth reading, since it discusses the particular difficulty that Finnerty faced (because of his recognizability) in the case. Two quotes of particular note:

Loyola president Rev. Brian Linnane, commenting on Finnerty’s receipt of the John R. Moller award for achievement in academics, athletics and character: “It is a huge honor. It is a very significant award, and it reflects the way he fit into the team. It’s unimaginable to be accused the way he was, and the way he moved beyond that with great grace and became a leader, it says a lot about him and his family.”

Chaminade High School president Rev. James Williams: “The biggest temptation has been to become angry, which would have been justified . . . Instead he was moved, his family was moved, toward reconciliation. Despite the pain [the accuser] and others were causing, while they were still upset with her they knew she came from a difficult and troubled background and they had compassion for her . . . And the anger never won.”

Contrast those evaluations with the performance, since the case to which they attached their professional reputations imploded, of the Group of 88.

Who showed character in this affair: the falsely accused college student, or dozens of professors at one of the country’s leading universities?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Regarding Dr. Kimmel

[Update below, 6.18pm, 5-20.]

Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook, has a research profile (“Gender, Sexuality, Masculinity, Political and Social Movements”) that would put him at home with the race/class/gender-obsessed Group of 88. Kimmel’s personal website describes him as “among the leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity in the world today”; his most recent book is Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.

Kimmel is no stranger to the Duke campus. In 2009, he gave a campus lecture on “Adventures in Guyland.” The lecture’s two co-sponsors were the Women’s Center, formerly headed by Prof. Robyn (“Campus Enforcer”) Wiegman and the Kenan Institute of Ethics, formerly headed by Prof. Kathy (“speciesism”) Rudy. Keep those connections in mind.

Yesterday, Kimmel penned an article for the Huffington Post offering the now-familiar meme that the killing of former UVA lacrosse player Yaerdley Love by former men’s lacrosse player George Huguely illustrates “lacrosse and the entitled elite male athlete.” Kimmel argued that “such guys [as Huguely] are the epitome of what I describe in my book Guyland as the ‘culture of entitlement.’ They think they can do anything they want and get away with it, and usually they’re right.”

Kimmel claimed that Huguely benefited from “a culture of protection” typical of lacrosse—“a bubble of class privilege, athletic status and a fraternal wagon-circling when things go wrong. If things go terribly wrong, the culture of protection -- including parents, coaches and alumni boosters -- hire high-priced lawyers who manage to get records expunged and witnesses to forget what they saw. Lacrosse’s bubble of protection is a bit different from that of football: It's a country-club entitlement, based more on class than athletic revenue.”

It’s difficult to generalize about an entire sport based on one incident, so Prof. Kimmel provided some additional examples to strengthen his thesis:

It was a bunch of lacrosse players from Glen Ridge (N.J.) High School who gang-raped a 14-year-old moderately retarded girl in 1989, and it was members of the Duke lacrosse team who were accused of raping a stripper hired for a team party. (Yes, yes, I know: The woman who accused them turned out to be a lying schemer; the guys were exonerated. But it's interesting that their friends and classmates found the story utterly plausible, as they told countless reporters. And the team did, after all, hire strippers for their team party in violation of all team and university rules.)

The paragraph above contains three unambiguous statements of fact:

(1) That the Duke lacrosse captains violated “all team and university rules” when they hired strippers;

(2) That “friends and classmates” [emphasis added] of the Duke lacrosse players told “countless” reporters that they considered at least one version of false accuser Crystal Mangum’s tale “utterly plausible”;

(3) That high school lacrosse players raped a mentally challenged 14-year-old girl in New Jersey.

None of these statements has any basis in reality.

(1) The hiring of strippers for a spring break party was a tasteless and stupid decision. But, like the roughly 20 Duke student groups or teams that apparently hired strippers in the 2005-6 academic year, the lacrosse captains violated no existing Duke rules in their decision.

I e-mailed Prof. Kimmel to ask for a citation to even one “team and university rule” (much less “all” rules) the lacrosse players allegedly violated. He replied, “I remembered reading that the then-president said something of that kind when it happened.” He provided no citation for the article in which he encountered this statement. No record of such an assertion by President Richard Brodhead exists.

(2) It’s quite true that a small minority of Duke students—and a more significant contingent of faculty (about 88 of them, to be precise)—not only found Mangum’s tall tales “utterly plausible” but made public, guilt-presuming statements on the case. Indeed, I’m not at all surprised that upon his invited visits to Duke, Prof. Kimmel discovered that figures such as Profs. Weigman and Rudy presumed guilt. But faulting the lacrosse players for dozens of the Duke professors setting aside the academy’s traditional fealty to due process in a rush to judgment would be a little like officials in the Celtics-Magic series calling a foul on Paul Pierce for getting his head in the way of Dwight Howard’s elbow.

In any event, and more significant: just who were the friends of the lacrosse players who told countless reporters that they found at least one version of Mangum’s fabrications (presumably not the one in which she claimed to have been raped while suspended in mid-air) utterly plausible? I asked Prof. Kimmel to provide me with some citations to corroborate his claim.

He declined to do so, and merely said, “I suspect that I relied on those reports from faculty [emphasis added] and the students I read about in the same media outlets as any other New Yorker, plus a couple of lecture trips to Duke in the past three or four years, during which time I spoke to quite a few students and faculty [emphasis added] who said they weren’t at all surprised.”

Nothing in the above reply, of course, relates to Prof. Kimmel’s remark about “friends” of the lacrosse players doing anything, much less telling “countless” reporters that they had found Mangum’s story “utterly plausible.” His presenting as fact that the players’ friends found Mangum’s story “utterly plausible” is highly misleading at best and unprofessionally inaccurate at worst.

(3) As part of his effort to discuss the particularly unappealing characteristics of lacrosse players, even in comparison to football players, Prof. Kimmel also mentioned a 1989 gang-rape by lacrosse players—of a mentally-challenged 14 year-old-girl—in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.

Some might argue that this example was a bit of a stretch—two crimes, committed 20 years apart, hardly confirm the allegedly pernicious culture of a sport.

In any event, and much more significant: the Glen Ridge rape wasn’t committed by lacrosse players. It was committed by football players. (The victim was 17, not 14.) And in 1989, at the time of the rape, Glen Ridge High School didn’t even have a lacrosse program.

In a follow-up e-mail, I asked Prof. Kimmel if there was another 1989 Glen Ridge gang rape, this one committed by lacrosse players, to which he referred. He did not reply.

Doubtless Prof. Kimmel did not write an essay for a high-profile publication intentionally littered with factually inaccurate or wildly misleading statements—statements he based on recollections of unspecified articles that a “New Yorker” might have read four years ago. Indeed, I have little doubt that Prof. Kimmel actually believed that what he wrote was true. In the groupthink atmosphere that dominates so many humanities and social science departments, “facts” that conform to the prevailing narrative, such as those Prof. Kimmel presented in the quoted paragraph, get “remembered” in ideologically convenient ways, to such an extent that a prominent professor could pen an article for one of the highest-trafficked news sites on the internet and not even bother to check his assertions.

For those in the reality-based community, however, such cavalier disregard of facts is nothing short of extraordinary, and is fatal to the credibility of the author.

[Update: Prof. Kimmel e-mails to say that the factual errors have been removed from his item as it was cross-posted, and that these errors will also be removed from the HuffPost item. (As of this writing, the HuffPost item has not been changed.) No notation exists in the cross-posted item that an edit to remove factual inaccuracies has occurred.]

Monday, May 17, 2010

No Shame

Though publicly rebuked by his own ideological comrades, Group of 88 extremist Grant Farred doesn’t appear to have lost any of his pedagogical influence. The homepage of Cornell’s English Department includes an announcement of a new concentration—“cultural studies”—which supposedly allows students to “study different media and forms of culture in terms of historical, social, and political contexts.”

According to the link the department provides, the two departmental specialists in this new concentration are none other than Dr. Farred, along with colleague Jane Juffer.

Farred’s . . . peculiar research interests already have been noted. Juffer, a former director of Penn State’s Latino/a Studies Initiative, is author of At Home with Pornography: Women, Sex, and Everyday Life. The book offers the only-in-academia thesis of viewing “women’s erotica within the context of governmental regulation that attempts to counterpose a ‘dangerous’ pornography with the sanctity of the home. Juffer explorers [sic] how women’s consumption of erotica and porn for their own pleasure can be empowering, while still acting to reinforce conservative ideals.” NYU Press assures readers that completing Juffer’s work will “transform our understanding of women's everyday sexuality.”

What sorts of topics will this new concentration enable students to explore? Prof. Debra Fried gave two examples to the Cornell student newspaper: “anything from comparing Ithaca’s coffee shops to how a ‘news anchor’s hairdo and clothing can contribute subtly to how the news is “spun” on a TV news report.’”

And beyond the offerings of Farred and Juffer, the new concentration will offer such courses as “Food, Gender, Culture,” which explores “the way food practices help shape our sense of [of course . . .] gender, race, sexual orientation, and national identity.”

In a comment that must have been made tongue-in-cheek, Cornell Daily Sun reporter Joseph Nickzy affirmed that “English majors are excited by the prospect of a new field of study, particularly one so relevant.”

Cornell’s annual tuition—not counting room and board—is $39,450. For the opportunity to partake of such “relevant” course offerings from such student-friendly professors as Grant Farred, surely any parent would be eager to fork over $160,000 plus room and board for a four-year period.


Farred, it’s worth noting, isn’t the only disgraced figure associated with the lacrosse case recently in the news. John McCann, a due process-unfriendly columnist from the Herald-Sun, last week suddenly decided the time had come to stand up for criminal defendants. His preferred choice? False accuser Crystal Mangum.

In the column, Mangum co-author Vincent Clark wildly charged, according to McCann’s summary, that Mangum’s bond (from criminal charges earlier this year) “is too high,” because of “the woman’s role in the lacrosse case.” Neither McCann nor Clark provided any evidence to corroborate the claim, nor did either man offer a theory (plausible or otherwise) as to why the Durham criminal justice system would operate from such a motive.

Magnum, according to Clark, is an innocent victim in the affair: “It could have been anybody's daughter . . . It could have been my daughter.” Clark didn’t say if his daughter had ever set clothes on fire inside an apartment while screaming at her boyfriend, with her children in the next room.

(The line recalled Duke extremist Timothy Tyson’s justification for being part of the potbangers’ protest weekend: Mangum was “somebody’s daughter and somebody’s sister and somebody’s mother and somebody’s sweetheart.”)

Clark additionally complained about difficulties in his fundraising campaign for Mangum’s bond. Laments McCann: “Problem is, folks are scared to contribute to Mangum's cause out of fear of being linked to her and attracting unwanted attention.” Indeed. The danger of publicity is undoubtedly the only reason why “folks” are not lining up to contribute to a bail fund for a repeat criminal who lied about a high-profile local case.

Perhaps Clark should turn to Farred for donations? After all, the ex-Duke professor did everything he could to prop up Mangum’s case, and the median salary for his current rank is $154,300.

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.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More Strained Comparisons

Let’s review some facts.

(A) Accused murderer George Huguely had a documented record of violence, seen most clearly when a police officer had to taser him when he resisted arrest. Allegations have emerged of a pattern of violence, allegedly involving not only the woman he’s accused of murdering but even another member of the UVA men’s lacrosse team. In his own words to police, Huguely admitted repeatedly slamming his former girlfriend’s head into a wall. Huguely’s attorney has claimed the event was an “accident” but hasn’t denied his client’s culpability; the strongest character witness in public on Huguely’s behalf has been his former nanny. And, to my knowledge, no one has accused either the Charlottesville police or DA’s office of behaving in anything other than a professional manner.

(B) In the Duke case, no crime occurred (except possibly a conspiracy to obstruct justice by the police and prosecutor). There never was any evidence that a crime occurred (except with the above caveat). The lacrosse players and their attorneys repeatedly denied committing any crime, and produced massive evidence of their innocence. The prosecutor’s behavior provided the highest-profile instance of prosecutorial misconduct in modern American history. Hundreds of their current friends and acquaintances—including the women’s lacrosse coach and many women’s lacrosse players—publicly testified to the good character of the three falsely accused Duke students. And the men’s lacrosse captains hosted a tasteless spring break party—hardly an abnormal event for college students, despite insinuations from the neo-Puritans of the media and academic left.

Suggesting that comparing (A) with (B) is “strained” is generous. And yet the comparisons continue apace.

This morning, a featured story on the AOL homepage recommends that the University of Virginia “shut down” its men’s lacrosse season. That strikes me as a case of punishing a group for the sins of one member, an unusual approach in a society that correctly frowns upon the principle of collective punishment.

Author Kevin Blackistone speaks warmly of Duke’s dismissal of coach Mike Pressler (a decision that led to a lawsuit that Duke settled out of court). He adds that “UVA officials would be smart to review the Report of the Lacrosse Ad Hoc Review Committee at Duke that investigated the Duke lacrosse team’s scandal four years ago,” which he claims shows that the Duke lacrosse players were “miscreants.”

Actually, the Coleman Committee report showed that some of the lacrosse players drank too much—on a campus where the same could be said of a significant minority of the student body, and, perhaps more troublingly, on a campus where the city had adopted a “separate-but-equal” justice policy of prosecuting Duke students and only Duke students for crimes for which other Durham residents received a pass.

That report, of course, also revealed that the Duke men’s lacrosse players were on the whole very strong students (stronger, it’s worth noting, than UVA lacrosse players); that they had strong records of community service; that they had exemplary records of dealing with Duke staff members; and that they had no documented record of unacceptable behavior on grounds of race or gender.

Those are the findings that Blackistone believes would justify terminating UVA’s program? His column represents little more than an attempt to use the UVA killing to smear the character of 2006 Duke men’s lacrosse team.

Then there’s Ruth Marcus, a rare voice of sanity at the Washington Post during the criminal case. She recently penned a column wondering, “[Is it] something about lacrosse?” She then asserted that “It's impossible to read the Huguely story without thinking back to the Duke lacrosse case,” since—despite the weakness of the allegations—"These don't sound like young men you'd want your daughter to date."

Refer, above, to cases (A) and (B), and wonder, “Is it something about left-of-center opinion columnists?”

Or take this piece in the Baltimore Sun from Peter Prowitt, who is cryptically described as “with the Vienna Liaison Office of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly.” Prowitt linked Huguely’s arrest with the Duke lacrosse case as illustrating a “culture of sexual misconduct and off-the-field troubles in men's lacrosse.” Well, no “sexual misconduct” occurred in the Duke lacrosse case. And the “off-the-field troubles” resulted from the wildly unethical behavior of a local prosecutor.

Prowitt adds that even though they were “cleared of the allegations”—a parsimonious description—it’s “clear” that Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty “exercised poor judgment in this incident.” How, precisely, it is “clear”? By attending a party they played no role in organizing and probably drinking some beer? That’s behavior that Prowitt can link to the conduct of an accused murderer?

Or, even, take this article in yesterday’s Daily News from Kevin Armstrong and Michael O’Keeffe. In an otherwise very well-reported article, the reporters offer the following peculiar lede: “University of Virginia lacrosse players adhered to the code of silence that permeates locker rooms and dorm rooms Thursday, refusing to comment [on the record] on former teammate George Huguely, who was been charged in the slaying of his former girlfriend Yeardley Love, or on reports that he had a history of aggressive behavior.”

The allegation brought to mind the pernicious claims of figures such as Mike Nifong and Selena Roberts in the Duke case, that the players had constructed a “wall of silence” to frustrate the case. Yet readers of the Armstrong/O’Keeffe article would discover that the UVA players had been fully cooperative with the police investigation, and had been willing to speak with reporters on a not-for-attribution basis.

Refusing to give on-the-record quotes to members of the media when reporters demand those quotes constitutes a “code of silence”? By that standard, all of Washington, DC functions under such a code.

And, just to provide a reminder of the . . . lax . . . standards that too often permeate the mainstream media, take a look at who the Today show invited on as an “expert” on this morning’s broadcast.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Does accountability even exist in the media world? Having adjunct law professor Murphy on to discuss a sex crimes case is a little like—as we also recently saw—having former FEMA director Michael Brown on to discuss disaster response policy.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Today Slanders the Lacrosse Players

[Update, 2.41pm, below:}

On this morning's broadcast of Today, host Meredith Viera interviewed "criminal profiler" Pat Brown, on the topic of whether the Virginia killing could have been prevented.

Out of the blue--in a discussion, again, of an accused murderer--"criminal profiler" Brown offered the following insight: "Look at the Duke situation. All these boys did all these things, but were they thrown off the team? No."

Viera offered no correction, but merely thanked Brown for her insights. The item comes at 8.49 of the clip below:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On another front, I have an op-ed this morning in Inside Higher Ed on the flawed comparisons between the Duke and UVA cases.

[Via Mediate, the phony comparisons continue--this time from CNN's Don Lemon, who referenced the Duke "sex scandal." As Steve Krakauer notes, "Is a sex scandal a sex scandal if it’s proven there was no sex scandal at all?"]

Monday, May 03, 2010


[Update, 4.13pm, below]:
[Update, II, 4.27pm, below]:

[Update III, 11.31pm: The Washington Post, admirably, has now modified its language, noting that the falsely accused lacrosse players were "exonerated," that the case itself was "controversial," and omitting the incorrect inference that the falsely accused of racist behavior.]

[Update IV, 12.22pm, 5/4: An important point from the comment thread: "Stories about this case are constantly linking it with the Duke case; and these comparisons are evidence of how those false accusations continue to damage the reputations of the Duke lacrosse team members."]

[Update V, 5.39pm, 5/4: A most unfortunate item from Emily Friedman of ABC: "The prep school is no stranger to controversy. Several of the Duke lacrosse players who were implicated in the 2006 rape scandal were also alumni." No mention that the charges were false. How can a "rape scandal" exist in a case in which no rape occurred?]
Original Post:

A horrifying story from Charlottesville, where a member of the UVA men's lacrosse team has been charged with murdering a member of the women's lacrosse team.

The Washington Post has linked the matter back to the lacrosse case. Here's how the Post describes the case: " . . . shortly after allegations of sexual assault and racist behavior were made against members of Duke University's men's lacrosse team . . . All charges against Duke's team members were dropped." [emphases added]

The charges were "dropped"? Actually, of course, the players were declared innocent--a rather significant difference. And the wording of the Post's passage conveys the impression that "allegations" of "racist behavior" were directed against the three falsely accused players.

[Update: The Post formulation has appeared--essentially verbatim--in the New York Daily News. In what appears to be a case of journalistic plagiarism, the News' Teri Thompson writes, "Huguely attended the Landon School in Bethesda, where he also played lacrosse. He was interviewed by the Washington Post in 2006, shortly after allegations of sexual assault and racist behavior were made against members of Duke University's men's lacrosse team. Five of Duke's players that year had graduated from Landon. All charges against Duke's team members were dropped."

Here, again, is the item from the Post: "Huguely attended the Landon School in Bethesda, where he also played lacrosse. He was interviewed by the Post in 2006, shortly after allegations of sexual assault and racist behavior were made against members of Duke University's men's lacrosse team. Five of Duke's players that year had graduated from Landon. All charges against Duke's team members were dropped."

The two passages are identical, with the sole exception that Thompson inserted a "Washington" ahead of the "Post."]

[Update, II: ESPN has the charges being "dismissed"--no mention of innocence, but at least a slightly more accurate formulation than the Post. The ESPN article also wildly claims that the accused Virginia player attended the same high school as did Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty (who, it's worth noting, didn't even attend the same high school themselves, and neither attended Huguely's high school): "By coincidence, Huguely attended the same prep school as the Duke lacrosse players who were accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a team party. The charges later were dismissed."

ESPN has now modified its article; below is the screenshot.