CNN is under increasing pressure after three of its on-air personalities seemed to express sympathy with two convicted rapists in the high-profile Steunbenville rape case.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” CNN’s Poppy Harlow said on location after the guilty verdict came down. “It was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me; to watch 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. … One of the young men, when that sentence came down, he collapsed.
Back in the studio, Candy Crowley asked a legal contributor about the “lasting effect on two young men being found guilty [of rape] in juvenile court.” His response focused on how bad life is about to become for the rapists.
The video of the segment in question is even worse than my description:
And the Internet exploded.
The tip of the anti-CNN spear looks to be a petition at Change.org that has over a quarter-million signers demanding the network, “apologize on-air, several times over the course of the next week, at the start of every hour[.]”
Kelly McBride of Poynter.org (a site that covers journalism) is now under some fire of her own after declaring the anti-CNN uproar a “waste of time.” What really caught everyone’s eye was McBride’s flawed reasoning for not signing the Change.org petition:
Portraying all rapists as monsters and refusing them any sympathy creates a dynamic in which it’s impossible to acknowledge how many ordinary and common rapists live among us. (According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, “approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim,” and “38 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.)
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple correctly points out how false that argument is. Regardless of your opinion of the petition, no one is asking that the rapists be demonized.
I’m not prepared to render an opinion of CNN based on only six-minutes of video. That doesn’t mean, though, that after watching CNN turn Todd Akin’s comments into a partisan bludgeon against Mitt Romney, I’m not enjoying myself.
As far as McBride’s Poynter.org column defending CNN, it’s a travesty of journalistic narcissism — an opportunity for someone who has worked with rape survivors for “more than a decade” to tell us she has worked with rape survivors for more than a decade and then lecture the hoi polloi from on high.
McBride made a spectacle of herself.
Apparently, CNN is hoping to ride the storm out. Thus far the network has made no official comment. The Wrap’s says they have been told on background through CNN executives that Poppy Harlow “taking this extremely personally as a woman”.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC