The best description I can think of for CNN’s coverage of the verdict in the Steubenville rape trial: freakishly distorted and reprehensible.
Earlier today, many people were outraged and disgusted at Candy Crowley’s expressions of sympathy for the rapists, but that was not the end of it; CNN continued with this awful slanted reporting throughout the afternoon.
CNN’s coverage of the verdict in the Steubenville rape case appeared to be curiously weighted on Sunday, focusing on the effect the guilty verdict would have on the lives of the now-convicted rapists and their families, rather than that of the victim and her family.
Steubenville High School football players Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were accused of raping a severely intoxicated 16-year-old West Virginia girl who also attends the Ohio school. Thousands of text messages introduced in the case presented a picture of teens swapping graphic stories about the assault.
In a Sunday afternoon segment, anchor Fredricka Whitfield followed the straight news of the guilty verdict (which she described as rape occurring “after a night of heavy partying”) by showing the rapists’ parents’ weeping in court. Footage of Richmond, his mother and father offering emotional appeals to the victim’s family dominated the segment.
Whitfield threw the story to reporter Poppy Harlow, but not before reiterating that Mays and Richmond’s “family members tried their hardest to plead for some forgiveness from the victim’s family, as well as from the judge.”
To her credit, Harlow appeared to try and correct the segment’s tone: “That’s true Fredricka,” she said of the tears of the convicted rapist’s families, “but this is an incredibly serious crime, it’s the crime of rape.”
And yet, the effects of the rape on the victim seemed to be an afterthought: “It was incredibly emotional, it was difficult for anyone in there to watch those boys break down,” Harlow said. “[It was] also difficult, of course, for the victim’s family.”
The thing is, I don’t believe these reporters actually are sympathizing with the rapists over their victim; I think it’s more cynical and base than that. Dramatic displays of emotion are what CNN is after, because they’re good for CNN’s bottom line. In their marketing calculations, emotional outbursts draw viewers and sell advertisements. They seek out these kinds of scenes — and in this case, since the victim’s identity is kept secret, the only emotional outbursts they could show were the rapists’. So they exploited those moments to the best of their ability.
And in the process, caused great harm to their reputation. CNN continued with this bullshit even after a storm erupted on social media, condemning their coverage. The sheer contempt they showed for their audience, and for the victim of this terrible crime, was breathtaking.
And one more point: the sentences these two kids got were absurdly, offensively light in view of their crime.
Here’s video of the Candy Crowley segment, via Crooks and Liars.