ESPN to air documentary on Duke lacrosse rape hoax
It has been nearly 10 years since a group of Duke lacrosse players hosted a party that would end up getting them accused of gang-raping a stripper. On the 10th anniversary, ESPN will air a documentary about the case.
The accusation centered around Crystal Mangum, who in a bid to avoid being detained for intoxication, told police that members of the Duke lacrosse team had raped her at a party. Her accusations snowballed, and with his election coming up, District Attorney Mike Nifong pressured her to identify the alleged rapists. One of the men she identified wasn't even at the party at the time the rape was supposed to have occurred.
Mangum's story also changed several times. (She was never punished for her false accusation, although later she was convicted of a separate murder and is currently in prison.)
But the case went forward anyway. Duke University administrators and professors maligned the lacrosse players as racists and rapists, since Mangum is African-American. The lacrosse season was cancelled, and the team's coach was forced to resign before the students even had their day in court.
The travesty of the case eventually led to Nifong's disbarment for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation." The accused students sued, but as is often the case for falsely accused young men, they received no monetary compensation.
Two writers who helped expose the fraud were history professor K.C. Johnson and Stuart Taylor, who co-wrote a book on the case. Johnson was interviewed for the ESPN documentary, and told the Washington Examiner that to this day, he is still amazed by the "utter lack of accountability."
"Ten years out, we as a society have learned nothing about the importance of due process in sexual assault allegations. (Indeed, the situation now is much worse than it was in 2006)," Johnson wrote in an email. "The leadership at Duke that so botched the case remains in place; the faculty who rushed to judgment remain firmly entrenched; and the key figures in the media, especially the New York Times, that so badly failed in covering Duke continue to fail in covering this issue."
Taylor, too, brought up the lack of accountability for anyone involved in the case (with the exception of Nifong), and explained how the school and the media worked to frame these students even as the case began to fall apart.
"The stunning things about the Duke lacrosse rape fraud were not merely that a dishonest, politically motivated DA and a rogue cop almost succeeded in framing totally innocent young men as perpetrators of a fabricated gang rape, but mainly the disgraceful conduct of more than 100 Duke professors and administrators and most of the national and local news media," Taylor said. "Motivated by politically correct animus against white male college athletes, they formed themselves into a rush-to-judgment mob and did their best to ruin the lives of the falsely accused young men — even after the evidence of their innocence was clear in the public record."
The sad reality is that in the 10 years since the Duke lacrosse case, the media has not learned to fairly investigate and report accusations of rape and sexual assault — especially on college campuses. Rolling Stone is a well-known example of this continuing failure, but there are more. "The Hunting Ground," a one-sided film about the issue, follows the same shoddy journalism techniques that the New York Times used during Duke lacrosse and that Rolling Stone used during it's "expose" on the University of Virginia. Yet Rolling Stone was disgraced while "The Hunting Ground" is on the shortlist for an Oscar.
Time and time again, the media and universities ignore the lessons of Duke and Rolling Stone and take every accusation as fact in order to railroad innocent young men into expulsion. And now, in addition to the media and administrators seeking social justice, the federal government — including President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and many U.S. senators — is in on the railroading.
Because since Duke, schools have not moved toward more due process and consideration of evidence, but away – thanks to the federal government's insistence that Title IX ensures schools must adjudicate felonies. Accusations against students are not investigated fully, as the simple act of accusing is enough to ruin a person's reputation and future.
We've learned nothing since Duke, just as we've learned nothing since the Rolling Stone debacle.
"Fantastic Lies" will air March 13 at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Maybe it will remind people that accusations need to be fully investigated and that young men in this country are innocent until proven guilty.