CNN Slammed for Sympathizing With Steubenville Rapists

The Internet reacts to Poppy Harlow, Candy Crowley commentary

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 18, 2013 2:52 PM CDT

(Newser) – CNN is getting slammed everywhere from Twitter to the blogosphere to mainstream media today, thanks to its coverage of the Steubenville rape verdict yesterday. After the teen boys were found guilty, anchor Candy Crowley kicked it to her reporter by saying, "I cannot imagine having just watched this on the feed coming in. How emotional that must have been sitting in the courtroom." Correspondent Poppy Harlow responded, "It was ... incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me 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." More of the same followed, as Crowley, Harlow, and legal contributor Paul Callan continued to focus on the rapists rather than on the victim. Washington Post has a full transcript. A sample of the reactions:

  • How about calling the boys what they are, suggests Laura Beck on Jezebel. The coverage should have been more along the lines of, "These two young rapists that had such promising futures—star football players, very good students, rapists—literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart because they brutally raped a girl."
  • "Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond are not the 'stars' of the Steubenville rape trial," writes Mallory Ortberg on Gawker. "They aren't the only characters in a drama playing out in eastern Ohio. And yet a CNN viewer learning about the Steubenville rape verdict is presented with dynamic, sympathetic, complicated male figures, and a nonentity of an anonymous victim."
  • The Huffington Post rounds up some of the incensed tweets, and editor Kia Makarechi calls the coverage "embarrassing and damaging."
  • Other portions of CNN's coverage were similarly problematic, one activist points out to Poynter, such as the fact that the journalists focused on the victim being drunk. And CNN wasn't the only network with issues in its coverage, she adds: Nightline called the case a "cautionary tale for teenagers living in today's digital world."
  • Good Morning America also got in on the act, the Atlantic Wire notes. Before the conviction, the show offered up "a sprawling preview ... with plenty of attention paid to the 'honors student' Mays and wrong-side-of-the-tracks Richmond. The piece ends on a sympathetic note, almost bemoaning the fact that the two teens 'face incarceration in a detention center until their 21st birthdays and the almost-certain demise of their dreams of playing football.'"
The Frisky points out that the Onion brilliantly parodied this very circumstance back in 2011.

Trent Mays, 17, left, gets a hug from his father, Brian Mays, after Trent and co-defendant Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were found delinquent on rape and other charges, Sunday, March 17, 2013.
Trent Mays, 17, left, gets a hug from his father, Brian Mays, after Trent and co-defendant Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were found delinquent on rape and other charges, Sunday, March 17, 2013.   (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, Pool)
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