More than 25,000 people on Change.org
, along with a chorus of people on social media, are demanding CNN apologize for its comments about two teenagers in Steubenville, Ohio, found guilty of raping an unconscious teenage girl and sharing images and video of the girl on social media.
Critics insist a CNN reporter and anchor sympathized with the attackers in their coverage of the reading of the verdict on Sunday, lavishing too much attention on the plight of the convicted rapists.
What did they say?
After the guilty verdict was handed down on Sunday, CNN anchor Candy Crowley asked reporter Poppy Harlow, who was in Steubenville, to describe the scene, namely the emotions, in the courtroom.
Here’s an excerpt of her statement that drew the strong rebuke:
“I’ve never experienced anything like it. 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 believed their lives fell apart …”
A video of Harlow’s entire remarks is below:
In response to the coverage, author and journalist Jessica Valenti tweeted:
This message garnered nearly 6,000 retweets.
Later in its coverage, CNN anchor Candy Crowley asked a legal expert about the lasting effects of being found guilty of rape in a juvenile court, to which the expert, Paul Callan, replied: “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 ... That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”
ripped CNN’s coverage, saying:
“It's perfectly understandable, when reporting on a rape trial, to discuss the length and severity of the sentence; it is less understandable to discuss the end of two convicted rapists' future athletic and academic careers as if it were somehow divorced from the laws of cause and effect. Their dreams and hopes were not crushed by an impersonal, inexorable legal system; Mays and Richmond raped a girl and have been sentenced accordingly. Had they not raped her, they would not be spending at least one year each in a juvenile detention facility.”
conceded that Crowley and Harlow are likely not “rape apologists,” they failed to behave like professional journalists in covering the trial, according to the blog.
The Change.org petition calls the coverage a “complete disgrace and a breach of journalist ethics.”
CNN has yet to comment on the incident.
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, both of whom were cast as football stars in the small Ohio town, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.