Reunited: NY Times Columnists Who Slimed Duke Lacrosse Team

March 3rd, 2009 6:26 PM

In his column "Exposing the Truth About Exposing the Truth," New York Times sportswriter Harvey Araton defended his "good friend" Selena Roberts -- a former Times sports columnist now reporting for Sports Illustrated -- from "misogynist ravings" launched after her recent reporting on steroid use by Yankees baseball star Alex Rodriguez.

Roberts has Rodriguez dead to rights on his steroid use and even made him cough up a public apology for previously lying about it. But Araton failed to reveal his former colleague's own sexist attacks and unfair persecution of Duke lacrosse players when they were falsely accused of raping a stripper in 2006. The case fell apart, and the Times, which pushed hard for the prosecution on its front page, came off looking both vengeful and pathetic.

Araton wrote on Tuesday:

One of the more fascinating elements of the Alex Rodriguez steroid chronicles is how willing people -- some even in the news media -- have been to decry the breach of confidential drug testing, along with the messenger. But isn't that what a free press is largely about, getting to the bottom of unsavory things that are not necessarily intended to be known?....Selena Roberts, who broke the story, is not only a former colleague, she is a good friend....Roberts didn't expose your average ballplayer, but the one considered a lock to restore honor to the reputation of American machismo in the form of the most cherished record in sports. For that, she was called a stalker by Rodriguez during his interview with ESPN.

Araton rushed to defend Roberts's honor:

If a man had broken the steroid story, would he have been demonized as a social deviant when all he was doing was due diligence? Would he have been subjected to a cross-examination of his intentions and ethics by too many in the news media and slandered by one WFAN morning radio host, whose recent misogynist ravings sunk to the level of his departed predecessor?

"Women covering sports are outsiders to the culture," said Marie Hardin, an associate director for the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State and an officer for the Association for Women in Sports Media. "Their work will be responded to with more hostility, open to more scrutiny. They will never have earned the right in the minds of many fans seeking affirmation of things they want to believe about sports."

It's a bit rich for the painfully politically correct Araton to complain about sexist and unfair criticism of Roberts when she did her best to slur Duke lacrosse players, even after they were proven innocent, for the crime of being white and privileged.

Roberts was still spewing on Duke in March 2007, after the players were all but officially cleared of charges. (The only person who went to jail was the man who prosecuted the case, North Carolina prosecutor Michael Nifong.) She wrote:

Don't mess with Duke, though. To shine a light on its integrity has been treated by the irrational mighty as a threat to white privilege. Feel free to excoriate the African-American basketball stars and football behemoths for the misdeeds of all athletes, but lay off the lacrosse pipeline to Wall Street, excuse the khaki-pants crowd of SAT wonder kids.

Araton himself also presumed the guilt of the Duke players in at least two columns, and to my knowledge never apologized for his stand against the innocent players. He wrote in June 2006:

Granted, it's human nature to form a hasty opinion about a sensational news event, and those who have already acquitted the players based on what they have heard -- from defense lawyers -- may be proved right. If they are, won't there be plenty of opportunity to rail against the other side? Shouldn't the judicial system be allowed to work without the accused being martyred, considering the long history in this country of black women being abused by white men of means?