Shameful sympathy

Media outlets creepily empathize with rapists in Steubenville case

We could’ve understood if the reporter had expressed sympathy for the 16-year-old rape victim.


Instead, bizarrely, in reporting the breaking news of guilty verdicts in the sensational Steubenville rape case Sunday, CNN’s Poppy Harlow seemed to get swept up in sympathy for the two rapists.

And anchorwoman Candy Crowley and a guest seemed to follow suit – all lamenting the fates of the two young football players found guilty of raping the girl and posting photos of her nude body.

The very local crime has shocked the conscience of the nation for the chilly detachment of the perpetrators and the cavalier flaunting of such a horrific crime.

Which makes CNN’s almost gushing sympathy for the rapists all the more odd and outrageous.

The reporter, anchor and guest took turns to rue the damage to the young football heroes.

“It was incredibly emotional – incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me,” the reporter said, “to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.”

In truth, the punishment won’t nearly fit the crime: Because the two players are juveniles, 17 and 16, they will be in detention no longer than their 21st birthdays – and likely much less time than that, and with credit for time already served.

They got off incredibly easy, though you wouldn’t know it from the tone on CNN. Crowley even seemed to downplay the crime committed, saying it was “rape, essentially.”

No, Candy. It was rape, specifically.

“What’s the lasting effect” on the two young men, Crowley worried to her guest, a legal analyst.

It will haunt the young men, he said.

“The most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders,” he continued. “That label is now placed on them by Ohio law. ... That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

The poor dears!

What about the girl? Won’t she be haunted even more? And, unlike the boys in this case, she didn’t cause it all.

CNN wasn’t the only media outlet that went out of its way to present these young rapists in a sympathetic light.

In an article headlined “How The Media Took Sides In The Steubenville Rape Case,” runs down how ABC, NBC and others seemed to show an inappropriate amount of sympathy for the rapists.

We’ve never seen such a thing in modern media history – or maybe we have and just didn’t realize it. The coverage in this case reminded some of a parody a few years ago by satirical publication The Onion – a video lampooning favorable coverage of athletes charged with crimes. In the video, a fictional college athlete is heralded for “overcoming the trauma of committing a terrible rape.”

The Steubenville rapists didn’t quite get that kind of coverage. But nearly so.

What were these people thinking?

Maybe this wouldn’t happen if they didn’t feel the need to imbue every news report with the drama of the reporter’s personal take on things.

They used to call that “news.”



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