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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Subway Squawkers Scoop: Duke Lacrosse case expert weighs in on Selena Roberts' credibility

Virtually every sports reporter today commenting on Selena Roberts' "A-Rod" book prefaces his argument by talking about how reputable she is. But, as the Yankees Republic blog and others have noted, the former New York Times columnist didn't exactly cover herself in glory with the way she wrote about the Duke Lacrosse case.

Not only did Roberts opine about the falsely accused college athletes as if they were guilty, and compared them to drug dealers and gang members, but she never apologized for her comments after the players were exonerated.

Anyhow, I was wondering what one of the driving forces behind helping the Duke Lacrosse players get their reputation back thought about Roberts' book. So I reached out to him.

Blogger KC Johnson is a college professor whose meticulously researched and argued Durham-in-Wonderland site helped prove the players' innocence. He is also, along with law expert Stuart Taylor Jr., author of Until Proven Innocent, the definitive book about the Duke Lacrosse case.

In his blog, Johnson has criticized Roberts' smears against the players, and her later disingenousness about what she really wrote. Anyhow, here's what Johnson had to say on Roberts' book. I have included links to the columns he mentions.

In an email interview, the Durham-in-Wonderland blogger told me:
It seems to me that maintaining credibility is vital for any journalist. Roberts, of course, may very well be correct in her reporting about A-Rod. (Let's face it: A-Rod himself has no credibility, given that he outright lied to the nation in the Katie Couric interview.)

But based on what we saw from Roberts in the lacrosse case, nothing that she says or writes should be accepted unless it can be independently verified. After all, Roberts: (a) demonstrated a disregard for the truth (her March and April 2006 columns included factually inaccurate items that she has, to this day, refused to retract or correct); (b) made wild leaps of logic (linking the players' supposed guilt to a critique of campus culture--only to claim, in March 2007, that she had never made such a linkage); and (c) absurdly asserted in March 2008 that criticism of her reporting came about because "some segments of the Duke lacrosse crowd did not enjoy the scrutiny of their world."
Johnson, in his Durham-in-Wonderland blog, noted in 2007 what Roberts said back about the case at the time:
Roberts’ March 31, 2006 column asserted that “something happened March 13” that “threatens to belie [the players’] social standing as human beings.” Roberts compared the players’ behavior to that “of drug dealers and gang members engaged in an anti-snitch campaign.” She bizarrely called a search warrant a “reported court document.” She praised the “heartening” protests of the potbangers—people, it’s worth remembering, who carried signs reading “Castrate” and “Measure for Measure.” She falsely stated that none of the players “have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account.” She falsely contended that a “court document” described the accuser as “the victim of a hate crime.” She noted that the accuser was “reportedly treated at a hospital for vaginal and anal injuries consistent with sexual assault and rape.” The reports, alas, were false; no correction ever appeared.
Yet in 2008, after she had faced criticism for those words, she told The Big Lead site: "Basically, I wrote that a crime didn’t have to occur for us to inspect the irrefutable evidence of misogyny and race baiting that went on that night.. . . Obviously, some segments of the Duke lacrosse crowd did not enjoy the scrutiny of their world.”

Johnson wrote this after that interview appeared:
Can Roberts seriously claim that an average Times reader would take away from the quotes above a conviction that her column’s argument was based on a premise that “a crime didn’t have to occur”?
It's going to be interesting to see how Roberts spins the accusations and allegations in "A-Rod," given how she characterized - or is that mischaracterized? - her own columns on the Duke Lacrosse case.

Thanks to KC Johnson for graciously agreeing to talk to me.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nicely written. I am no fan of A-Rod by any means as he has no credibility at all, as well pointed out. But I do hope that EVERYONE takes a close look at Roberts' leaps of logic, press to accuse, and thinly veiled )often baseless) biases. Her not 'fessing up and being forthright about being totally wrong in the Duke case is fully reflective and indicative of her lack of honesty and moral fiber. My take? She hates successful athletes as she was a scorned and mocked by them inhigh school and college - she is a resentful, pudgy, homely woman whose only means of getting noticed is to unleash her unjust wrath on them now.