CNNers Treat Steubenville Rapists More Sympathetically than Todd Akin?
When the guilty verdict was handed down in the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial, on Sunday, CNN's Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow painted the convicted rapists in sympathetic tones. Harlow emoted: "I've never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional -- incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened 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."
Crowley pondered: "You know, Paul [Callan], a 16-year-old now just sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, still sound like 16 year olds. The other one, 17. A 16-year-old victim. The thing is, when you listen to it and you realize that they could stay until they're 21, they are going to get credit for time served. What's the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?"
The initial sympathetic verdict coverage given to actual rapists stood in stark contrast to the harsher treatment CNN gave to the admittedly ignorant and offensive comments about rape, made by GOP candidate Todd Akin, during the 2012 campaign.
CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Piers Morgan both hit Akin on his lack of "sensitivity."
On the October 24 Starting Point, O'Brien slammed: "Our 'Get Real' this morning, I think it's a really interesting question about a lack of sensitivity toward a victim of rape. First it was the Missouri Senate candidate Republican Todd Akin who talked about legitimate rape."
On the November 5 edition of Piers Morgan Tonight, Morgan scolded: "But what women don't want to hear, with the greatest respect to all women, Republican women, Democratic women, and whoever, is people like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, these Senate candidates, banging on about rape in the most insensitive manner possible. I mean, Cecile, am I wrong about this, or does it just cause a lot of offense to women?"
While Crowley and Harlow did eventually express sympathy for the Steubenville rape victim, the question has to be asked how "insensitive" were they in displaying initial concern for the criminals in the case?
The following are the relevant exchanges from CNN's breaking news coverage of the Steubenville verdict as aired on the March 17 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
CANDY CROWLEY: Again, this case was played out in juvenile court, that is why there was a judge, no jury. He decided on the verdict, as well as, you heard there, talking about the sentence. We want to go now to CNN's Poppy Harlow. She is in Steubenville, and has been covering this trial. I cannot imagine having just watched this on the feed coming in. How emotional that must have been sitting in the courtroom.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I've never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional -- incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened 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 -- one of the young men, Ma'lik Richmond, when that sentence came down, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his attorney, Walter Madison. He said to me, "My life is over. No one is going to want me now."
Very serious crime here. Both found guilty of raping this 16- year-old girl at a series of parties back in August, alcohol-fueled parties. Alcohol is a huge part in this.
But Trent Mays was also found guilty on a second count and that is of felony illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material because he took a photograph of the victim laying naked on the floor that night. Trent Mays will serve two years in a juvenile detention facility. Ma'lik Richmond will serve one year on that one count that he was found guilty for.
I want to let our viewers listen because for the first time in this entire trial we have now heard from the two young men. Trent Mays stood up, apologizing to the victim's family in court. After him, Ma'lik Richmond. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRENT MAYS, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPINGIN JUVENILE COURT: I would really like to apologize to (INAUDIBLE), her family, my family and community. No pictures should have been sent out or should be taken. That's all. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything you'd like to say, Ma'lik?
MA'LIK RICHMOND, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPE IN JUVENILE COURT: I would like to apologize. I had no intention to do anything like that and I'm sorry to put you guys through this. (INAUDIBLE) I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: I was sitting about three feet from Ma'lik when he gave that statement. It was very difficult to watch. You know, something that came up throughout this sentencing. Ma'lik's father had gotten up and spoke. Ma'lik has been living with guardians. His father, a former alcoholic, gotten to a lot of trouble with the law, been in prison before.
And his father stood up and he told the court, "I feel responsible for this. I feel like I wasn't there for my son." And before that, he came over to the bench where his son was sitting. He approached him, he hugged him and whispered in his ear.
And Ma'lik's attorney said to us in a courtroom, I have never heard Ma'lik's father before say, I love you. He's never told his son that. But he just did today.
This was an incredibly emotional day. These two juveniles being carried out and they will be committed today, Candy.
CROWLEY: Poppy Harlow in Steubenville, Ohio, for us. I want to bring in Paul Callan, our CNN legal contributor. You know, Paul, a 16-year-old now just sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, still sound like 16 year olds. The other one, 17. A 16-year-old victim. The thing is, when you listen to it and you realize that they could stay until they're 21, they are going to get credit for time served. What's the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Candy, we've seen here a courtroom drenched in tears and tragedy and, you know, Poppy's description, I think, you know, sums it all up. But across America scenes like this happen all the time.
I know as a prosecutor and defense attorney, when that verdict is handed down, usually it's just the family and families of the defendants and the victims, there's always that moment of just lives are destroyed. And lives have already been destroyed by the crime. And we got a chance to see that.
But in terms of what happens now, yes, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law and, by the way, the laws in most other states now require such a designation in the face of such a serious crime.
That will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Employers, when looking up their background, will see they're registered sex offender. When they move into a new neighborhood and somebody goes on the Internet where these things are posted. Neighbors will know they're a registered sex offender. It's really something that will have a lasting impact. Much more of a lasting impact than going to a juvenile facility for one or two years.
-- Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.