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Was CNN’s Coverage Of The Steubenville Rape Verdict Unfair?

Submitted by on March 19, 2013 – 9:35 amOne Comment

CNN itself became the story on Sunday while reporting the “guilty” verdict for two teens in the Steubenville rape case. The cable news network is accused of sympathizing with the convicted rapists and ignoring the victim in the six minute Breaking News segment.

Anchor Candy Crowley and field reporter Poppy Harlow are being excoriated on the internet for emphasizing the emotional courtrooms scenes involving the defendants and mitigating factors in the crime, and also sympathetically discussing the negative effects of the rape conviction on the lives of the two young men.

Adam Mordechai at Upworthy (snarkily) breaks down the major points of the segment:

  • At 1:20, Poppy discusses the rapists’ impressive resumes.
  • At 1:54, Poppy says alcohol was a factor in their decision to rape.
  • At 2:20, Poppy speaks as though they are brave for apologizing.
  • At 3:27, Poppy tries to make us feel bad for them some more.
  • At 4:34, Candy makes a passing mention of the actual victim, then gets to the important part: asking how the conviction will make the rapists’ lives harder.
  • And at 5:18, they report that some sex offenders will have to be registered as sex offenders. Shocked, I say, shocked.

Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were found “deliquent” (guilty) in a juvenile court for raping a 16-year-old girl. Mays was convicted on additional charges for taking nude photographs of her.

The case made national headlines after details emerged that football players at the Ohio high school had allegedly raped the intoxicated woman repeatedly during several parties on an August night last summer, and then distributed images and discussed the assault through text messages and on social media. Allegations also arose that the boys were being protected by their coaches, parents, and local authorities.

The online hacker-activist collective Anonymous got involved, bringing social media attention and pressuring prosecutors.

In the dark corners of the internet, sympathy for the defendants has gone far beyond CNN’s levels, including victim blaming and outright rape justification.

A petition on Change.org demanding that CNN staff, including Crowley and Harlow, apologize on air has already garnered tens of thousands of signatures. A Yahoo! News article claims that CNN later aired a segment focusing on the lasting effects of the case on the victim, though I have been unable to find it.

What do you think?

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