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CNN’s unacceptable Steubenville coverage
Viewers have vilified CNN over its coverage of Sunday’s guilty verdict in the Steubenville rape case, and rightfully so.
Correspondent Poppy Harlow reported on the decision with an emphasis on its impact to the two young men convicted of rape, mentioning their “promising futures” and academic achievements. Harlow, who showed excessive sympathy for the young men, made no mention of the victim apart from summarizing the case. When reporting the verdict on Twitter, Harlow acknowledged the victim a bit more, describing her as “an allegedly-drunk 16-year-old girl.”
Before anchor Candy Crowley shifted to legal contributor Paul Callan, she should have compensated Harlow’s sympathetic tone by making some sort of remark about the impacted victim. She instead asked Callan, “What’s the lasting effect on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of… rape, essentially?” By saying “rape, essentially,” Crowley conveyed an unprofessional skepticism. While not a faux pas on the level of Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” comment, it epitomized a telecast that now has many labeling CNN as “rape apologists.”
To make matters worse, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all aired court footage that featured an uncensored reference to the victim’s name, a massive breach of ethics, especially considering her minor status.
Rape is an undeniably difficult subject to report, especially in the spur of the moment. But CNN’s coverage of the Steubenville verdict lacked the required perspective, awareness and sensitivity and cannot be excused.