ABC Looks at Media Bias in Duke Rape Case; Ignores Example From Own Network

On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Chris Cuomo talked to the authors of a new book about how liberals in the media allowed their politically correct biases to color coverage of the accused students in the Duke lacrosse rape case. Critiquing the media, Cuomo acknowledged, "It was difficult to report on this story fairly because there was so much pressure about pushing the angle that something had to happen. Something had to happen. It couldn't be nothing." He even proclaimed a lesson of the case to be "what people have always suspected, which is be careful what you hear from the media."

Video (1:35): Real (2.61 MB) or Windows (2.95 MB) or MP3 audio (739kB).

Stuart Taylor, co-author of "Until Proven Innocent," indicted liberal journalists who hold an obsession with race and sex. He derided the media’s gleeful handing of the case, saying, "The New York Times loved it, or a lot of people at the New York Times loved it. USA Today loved it. Nancy Grace on CNN loved it." However, while Cuomo did engage Taylor and his co-author K.C. Johnson on the subject of the media’s failing, the GMA anchor ignored an example from his own network. In April of 2007, ABC reporter Terry Moran blogged on the network’s official site that Americans shouldn’t feel too bad for the Duke students because of their wealth. He also claimed that the women of Rutgers basketball team suffered more from Don Imus:

As students of Duke University or other elite institutions, these young men will get on with their privileged lives. There is a very large cushion under them--the one that softens the blows of life for most of those who go to Duke or similar places, and have connections through family, friends and school to all kinds of prospects for success. They are very differently situated in life from, say, the young women of the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

A transcript of the September 4 segment, which aired at 8:40am, follows:

Chris Cuomo: "For too many, the phrase Duke lacrosse conjures images of sexual assault rather than sport. And the names Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann, and Dave Evans seem criminal, though no evidence of any crime was ever produced. So it's a simple question: How did this investigation go so wrong? And what was the motivation for such assumed prejudice? The answers now come in the form of a book written by two men very close to the case. The title says it all. What is it? ‘Until Proven Innocent.’ It would be, ‘Guilty Until Proven Innocent:[SIC] Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case." The authors, Stuart Taylor, K.C. Johnson join us now. Appreciate it. Stuart, let's get to what shocks the conscience here. We were talking before, we were talking all along with this case. Never saw anything that gave me such pause as a journalist and as an attorney, a prosecutor so out in front with so little behind his suggestions. Why did this happen?"

Stuart Taylor Jr. (co-author): "Well, you were on this before we were, but I think it happened in, most generally, because Mike Nifong, the prosecutor, was desperate to win an election. The reason he was desperate to win an election was not that he wanted to be a big-shot politician or governor. He was worried about his pension. He was a career prosecutor. His pension would be a lot lower if he got fired by the person who was going to beat him in the election which is what would have happened and therefore he was desperate to win and the way he decided to win was by exploiting and demagoging this case to inflame the black vote into a frenzy of hatred of these innocent defendants."

Cuomo: "An easy ploy, but, you know, and again, you’re reporting is rich in the book, but it's such an absurd conclusion. A pension? That's what it was about? What is your main reason for believing that?"

Taylor: "Because Jackie Brown, the campaign manager to Mike Nifong, during that primary campaign has gone public and has said and told us in more detail, told Casey in more detail, I believe, that that is why he told her he was desperate to win the election. That's why he told her he was running for election. And, of course, whether it's because he wanted a pension or because he wanted to be a big shot is probably less important than the fact that he decided to prosecute three people in the face of evidence that he had to know, unless he was deluded, showed that they were innocent, to prosecute them so he could win an election."

Cuomo: "And perhaps more sad, the man was embraced and that takes to us the theme of the political correctness, what it seemed like it was the right thing to do. You had an alleged victim who was a minority. You had a university campus that wanted to stand up for diversity and come after this culture of sportsmen who supposedly were a little too wild and K.C., you worked with the ABC law and justice unit, best unit at ABC News, as far as I’m concerned. You got involved because of what you saw among the academics. Why?"

K.C. Johnson (co-author): "That's correct. I had no connection to Duke. I didn't know Duke had a lacrosse team when this started. But even before there were indictments, well before there were indictments, 88 professors at Duke came out with a public statement saying, unequivocally, something happened to the accuser, thanking protesters who had carried a castrate banner. And this was such an extraordinary betrayal of what professors are supposed to do. They are supposed to stand up for due process. They are supposed to stand up for the dispassionate evaluation of evidence. And what we had here were professors who were exploiting their own students’ difficulties for their own agenda."

Cuomo: "And it went into all facets of society. I mean, we think of the obvious example, O.J. Simpson drew down about how the system works, about black versus white. Well, this did the same thing but in reverse fashion. And it carried all the way into the media. It was difficult to report on this story fairly because there was so much pressure about pushing the angle that something had to happen. Something had to happen. It couldn't be nothing. Why did the media fall into it, Stuart, in your opinion?"

Taylor: "We call it, in a chapter heading, politically correct sensationalism. Sensationalism is an obvious thing. It's not necessarily political. This was a sensational allegation. But in this case the desire to bally-ho the sensational allegation, coincided with a lot of political prejudices that a lot of journalists have, in particular, the, sort of, the race/class/sex obsession. You find a bunch of privileged white males. You find a underprivileged black female who says, ‘They raped me.’ They loved it. The New York Times loved it, or a lot of people at the New York Times loved it. USA Today loved it. Nancy Grace on CNN loved it. And a lot of journalists behaved in a shameful fashion present company excepted, I'm glad to say."

Cuomo: "[Laughs] Yeah. And yet, it also brought out the best in journalists. You mentioned in here, the AP, the wire stories that were coming out. They were working hard to ferret out clues. This, some guy named Dan Abrams, worked at some other place. He was working at it. It did bring out the best in people as well. But, it brings us to this: What is the lesson here? What did we learn other than what people have always suspected, which is be careful what you hear from the media. What is the lesson?"

Johnson: "This was the highest profile case of prosecutorial misconduct to unfold before our eyes in American history and groups that we think of as defenders of due process and opponents of this kind of behavior, liberals in the media, leftists in the academy, civil rights organizations, especially in North Carolina, not only didn't protest against Mike Nifong's behavior, they gleefully embraced it. And this suggests a corruption of elements of our culture that is, really, depressing."

Cuomo: "Stuart, quickly tell me because the boys are who matter here at the end of the day, how are they doing? Collin, Reade, Dave. How are they doing?"

Taylor: "They are doing well, I think. Dave has got a job on Wall Street. Colin has transferred to Loyola Marymount. Just Loyola, not Marymount. And, and Reade is going to Brown. They are going to play lacrosse. I would like to add, we got to know these kids and their families very well. They are wonderful kids. There’s a lot of people who would like to pillory them as bad kids. ‘Oh, well, maybe they may not have been rapists, but they are bad kids because they hired strippers.’ Well, one of them was involved in hiring strippers. Let him who without sin cast the first stone. I thought they were terrific people."

Cuomo: "Absolutely. Nobody is perfect. But, I’ll tell you what, this was a perfect topic to choose. Stuart, K.C., thank you very much. If you want to read an excerpt of the book, and you can get any title that is featured on GMA, go to ABC News.com."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org