On Thursday’s “Good Morning America,” reporter Kate Snow hosted a segment on whether the Duke lacrosse players will be able to get their reputations back. In so doing, she discussed Reverend Al Sharpton’s role in falsely accusing New York prosecutor Steven Pagones of raping then 15-year-old Tawana Brawley in 1987.
Though this segment was not specifically related to the unfolding Don Imus story, GMA has thus far been the only network morning show to interview Pagones and, by implication, seriously question Sharpton’s role as moral arbiter in the Imus case. (In fairness, “Today” has mentioned the Tawana Brawley case in general as has MSNBC.) After discussing the Duke case, Snow segued into other high profile, false accusations:
Kate Snow: "Steven Pagones knows exactly how that is. 20 years ago, he was very publicly accused of raping 15-year-old Tawana Brawley."
Al Sharpton [file footage of Sharpton]: "Six white men, one named Steve Pagones. I repeat it again! The assistant district attorney of Dutchess County, were among those that attacked her."
Steven Pagones: "Imagine sitting down with your family on a Sunday afternoon watching the news, and hearing that the lead story, the headline, is that this man is accusing you of abducting and raping Tawana Brawley, a person you've never met."
As noted earlier on NewsBusters, ABC’s “The View,” surprisingly, also featured a segment that exposed Sharpton’s role in the Tawana Brawley hoax, as well as some of his more extreme racial statements. This is encouraging and NBC and CBS should follow-up and also interview the falsely accused Pagones.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:31am on April 12, and was introduced by GMA co-host Chris Cuomo, follows:
Chris Cuomo: But first, let's go back to Duke for a moment, because they say at the end of the day, you have nothing but your reputation. But is it really possible to reclaim your reputation once it's been lost? That is the question that three Duke lacrosse players are facing this morning just like many others who had to fight to reclaim their good name. And Kate has more on that."
Snow: "And we did an informal poll on our website and the vast majority of our viewers said the Duke players deserved to be compensated for what they have been through. But even if they are, no amount of money can change the fact that they will always be know as those Duke lacrosse players accused of something terrible."
[Montage of quick quotes from Duke players]
Snow: "They did what any expert at damage control would have told them they had to do, making all of us feel the pain of being falsely accused."
David Evans (Accused Duke player): "I hope the way that I could be remembered is sticking up for my name, for my family and my team against impossible odds."
Eric Dezenhall (PR expert): "The best thing to do when you have been falsely accused is to hit back and hit back hard immediately, but then retreat. You have to tell your side of the story. You have to show that you have been victimized."
Snow: "But the damage to their reputations, that's permanent."
James Coleman (Duke University Law Professor): "There are other people who know absolutely nothing about them except that they are defendants in a rape case, some of whom won't even remember what the outcome was. And I think that that will be part of their history for the rest of their lives."
Snow: "Steven Pagones knows exactly how that is. 20 years ago, he was very publicly accused of raping 15-year-old Tawana Brawley."
Al Sharpton: "Six white men, one named Steve Pagones. I repeat it again! The assistant district attorney of Dutchess County, were among those that attacked her."
Steven Pagones: "Imagine sitting down with your family on a Sunday afternoon watching the news, and hearing that the lead story, the headline, is that this man is accusing you of abducting and raping Tawana Brawley. A person you've never met."
Snow: "Even though the grand jury determined the whole story was a hoax, Pagones is still battling accusations. And you remember Richard Jewell, the guy the media called the suspect in the Atlanta Olympics bombings."
Richard Jewell: "Everywhere I go, I'm stared at. The whispers, it's amazing how loud a whisper is when you hear your name."
Eric Dezenhall: "Well, in this life, you can't un-ring a bell. You can't go around door to door and tell people to forget everything that they've ever heard."
Snow: "Jewell was finally honored last year for finding the bomb, not planting it. He's now a sheriff's deputy in rural Georgia. But accusations, even when proven false take on a life of their own. As the Duke lacrosse players are well aware."
David Evans: "It's been a long year. Longer than you could ever imagine, but I hope these allegations don't come to define me."
Snow: "Richard Jewell is married now, living on a 10 acre farm with a bunch of dogs. He's still fighting a legal battle, by the way, with 'The Atlanta Journal.' Steve Pagones is now a private investigator, and he told me, I talked to him yesterday, he says he likes being able to help people find the truth."