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Thursday, October 12th 2006

Coverage Of The Duke Rape Case

On 60 Minutes this Sunday, Kim Roberts, the other dancer at the Duke lacrosse party again refutes varied claims of the accuser.

Roberts’ answer to Bradley’s question directly contradicts a crucial statement the accuser gave to police. Bradley asks whether she, Roberts, who goes by the stage name “Nikki” when she performs, was holding onto the accuser at the beginning of the alleged crime.

Says Bradley, “In the police statement, [accuser] describes the rape in this way: ‘Three guys grabbed Nikki,’ ‘That’s you,’” says Bradley, “‘Brett, Adam and Matt grabbed me. They separated us at the master bedroom door while we tried to hold on to each other. Bret, Adam and Matt took me into the bathroom.’ Were you holding on to each other? Were you pulled apart?”

“Nope,” replies Roberts, who says she was hearing this account for the first time.

Roberts also denies the accuser’s statement to the police that after the alleged rape, Roberts came into the bathroom and helped one of the rapists dress her.

When pressed by Bradley about whether she saw signs of rape from the accuser, such as complaining about pain or a mention of an assault, Roberts says, “She obviously wasn’t hurt…because she was fine.”

The three accused lacrosse players are also interviewed. I’m going to try to “live” blog (since it obviously runs at different times in different parts of the country).

Then a story in the New York Times mag criticizes the paper’s extensive coverage of the rape case so far. That is something I am no stranger to.

Wilson and another reporter wrote a mammoth front-page opus, clearly The Considered, Authoritative, Long-Awaited New York Times Assessment of the Duke Case.

“The way they presented it was fatal,” a Times editor told me. But Wilson, whose manner is oddly soft and tentative for an investigative reporter, says he’s happy about the mega-amped piece. “It’s thorough.” About the case overall, he told me, “I don’t have a strong opinion on it.” And the strange thing is, I believe him.

Among his 5,600 words are only a vague 17 about how the D.A.’s political situation seemed to drive the prosecution—a theory of Nifong’s behavior, Wilson told me, he doesn’t buy. He thinks the D.A.’s just stubborn—even though, as he also mentioned, he’s never interviewed Nifong. In a single dismissive boilerplate sentence, the piece attributes all criticism of the prosecution to defense lawyers, Duke alumni, and obsessive bloggers. What about Brooks, Kristof, and just about every other major national and local journalist and legal expert who’s looked closely at the case? Forget them. Thus the Times’ front-page news-hole takeaway: It isn’t a witch hunt, Nifong’s not so bad, these aren’t the Scottsboro Boys, the accuser may well have been raped, these Duke guys might have done it, the case deserves to go to trial.

“I’ve never been a source for anyone on any story ever written about the Times,” one reporter at the paper told me. So why on this one? “I’ve never felt so ill over Times coverage.” That’s ill at a paper that published Jayson Blair’s fabrications and Judy Miller on WMD. “It’s institutional,” said one of the several editors to whom I spoke. “You see it again and again, the way the Times lumbers into trouble.”

Here’s my original commentary on the original New York Times opus, which I thought was bias from the beginning or as I put it, “fishing” for news.

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