The guilty verdict for the two Steubenville, Ohio teens who raped a girl so drunk or drugged she was passed out, brought out an expected, if disturbing reaction from the mainstream press.
Because the two young men are teens, are good football players, and both had promising futures, much of the mainstream press took lots of time to sympathize with the two men.
CNN’s Poppy Harlow and Candy Crowley practically tripped over themselves to ladle on the gooey pity over the convicted sex offenders.
When describing the emotionally charged courtroom atmosphere, Harlow said, “Two young men that had such promising futures. Star football players. Very good students, Literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.” She then talked about how one of the defendants “collapsed into the arms” of one of the defense attorneys. She then goes on to describe – in excruciating detail – how one of the defendant’s absentee father (who was present during the trial) took part in the blame, walking over to his son, embracing him, telling the young man “I love you” for the very first time in his life.
After Harlow’s maudlin testimony, Crowley turned to Paul Callan, a CNN legal analysis. Not to be outdone herself, though, before she gave him time to speak she prefaced her question with “I cannot imagine how emotional the sentencing must have been. A 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are. They still sound like 16 year olds.”
Callan on the other hand comments on the legal repercussions of these guilty verdicts by saying “Lives are destroyed…” He then went on to report that both teens will have to register as sex offenders saying, “that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”
NBC News wasn’t all that better. When describing the two young men, the report sadly reports that the two young men had “promising football careers” and “dreams of college.” Unlike Crowley’s and Harlow’s love fest, though – at least the victim was mentioned.
There are other instances where the media – particularly reporters – painted the two young men as seeming victims, cut down at their prime; the real victim of this crime was also implicitly blamed for shining a harsh spotlight on the town of Steubenville, Ohio. Thankfully from the NBC News report, some of the townspeople didn’t side with the perps, but were offended and outraged at the crime.
Don’t get me wrong – it was an emotional scene. The two young men crying wasn’t something I enjoyed, and I did feel bad for their families. It’s also tragic that something inside of their psyches allowed for them to act in such a violent a sociopathic way – so in that case, yes, I do feel sorry for them, as these two young men are probably warped and in need of help.
But let’s remember a young girl was raped. Yet Callan, Crowley, and Harlow seemed to either forget or not be all that interested in her case – how her life has been ruined because not only has she been raped, but crime was texted to her peers.
The media portrayed these guys in a positive light because they didn’t fit the profile of what a rapist is – most people assume rapists are scary monsters who lurk in bushes and dark alleys, not fresh-faced high school kids. Think about it: if the suspects were middle-aged black men, would the media have embraced them? I believe that if both of the rapists were black (one was black, one was white), I also think the media wouldn’t have been as enthusiastic in its effort to sympathize.