Can CNN stay silent on its rape trial coverage?

Nearly 300,000 people have signed a petition insisting CNN apologize for part of its coverage of the Steubenville verdict, but the network has clammed up. Bad move, say PR pros.

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In fact, more than a quarter-million people have signed a petition demanding the network issue an on-air apology for the remarks.

CNN has said nothing on the record about the outcry. Is that wise or foolhardy?

“The longer this goes on, the more damage CNN’s reputation sustains,” said Hinda Mitchell, vice president at the PR agency CMA. “It’s time [for CNN] to do its mea culpas and move on. They’ve got to put a stop it.”

‘Rape sympathizers’

Critics have labeled CNN reporter Poppy Harlow and anchor Candy Crowley “rape sympathizers,” because of their comments about Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, who were found guilty of raping an intoxicated 16-year-old girl.

On Sunday, Harlow was reporting outside the courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, where the teens had just been convicted. When Crowley asked Harlow to describe the emotions inside the courtroom at the time the verdict was read, she said:

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