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250,000 Reasons for CNN to Shut Up About Rape?
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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It's difficult to keep up with every news story happening in every state, right? There is misery looming overhead everywhere and nowhere to rest our heads, so I understand if you missed this story about two high school football players in Steubenville, OH accused of raping a severely intoxicated 16-year-old girl. Long story short — the two young men, Ma'lik Richmond and Trent Hays, received delinquent verdicts on three charges, so off they go to juvenile detention until they become 21. 

Good riddance, right? Peace out, yes? Ask CNN that's the focus of national vitriol. 

It was a breaking news report from political stalwart Candy Crowley. The verdict was in. The emotions were high. And beat reporter Poppy Harlow was ready to go live...and according to many across the country, the report in this story from the Huffington Post was heinous. In fact, the reporting — and subsequent freelance commentary of both Crowley and Harlow — invoked a national petition from Change.org demanding a public apology from them and CNN overall. What was said? 

“I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. 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 … When that sentence came down, Ma’lik collapsed in the arms of his attorney. … He said to him, ‘My life is over. No one is going to want me now.’ Very serious crime here, both found guilty of raping the 16-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August. Alcohol-fueled parties; alcohol is a huge part in this.”

On first approach, she's reporting what she saw and heard. However, to many across the country, Crowley and Harlow became rape apologists and sympathizers for these two dolts found guilty. And then Crowley followed-up with the following commentary: 

“A 16-year-old just sobbing in court — regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16-year-olds,” Crowley said. “When you listen to it and you realize they could stay until they’re 21, what’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty, in juvenile court, of rape, essentially?”

Ergo, the national petition is now surpassing 250,000 signatures with loads of hate mail addressed to newly crowned Major Domo of CNN, Jeffrey Zucker. Granted, this is a loaded topic that will never please everyone. Much like politics, religion, and abortion, say one thing about rape — much less of a juvenile — and the full gamut of emotion will be experienced. And why? Because people are full of personal sentiment, experience, and angst. One of my most hated words in the human vernacular (aside from anything said in text lingo aloud) would be "offended." E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E gets offended about something, and it's usually nothing. However, when it's something, it gets blown up to anything outside the semblance of reason. Don't believe me? May I present a term to you that causes everyone to speak, think, act, and feel differently: Politically Correct. 

Do I think these two ladies sound like they are focusing on the boys found guilty and not the poor girl who was victimized? Yes. Do I expect better from the press, which should be exercising non-editorial-laden-and-unbiased journalism? Yes. Does this outrage — or even the report — surprise me? Not in the least. You see, before you rail on me and call my editor at TalentZoo.com looking for an apology, let me tell you that I have the regretful experience of knowing both a victim of rape and someone found guilty of doing it. It was from my high school years. They were both part of my clique, I suppose you would call it. Both were at a party. Both were underage. Both were completely trashed. And both got carried away upstairs. 

It was quiet. Most of us who were aware of what was going on giggled and went about our business...and then yelling ensued. It was a fight that involved two people — both voices raised, both people acting ridiculous. Then the fight came downstairs...she was bruised and he was sans pants. You figure out the rest. She was a victim and sought professional help for the rest of high school just to cope with reality. We never saw him again because he was shipped off to juvenile, much like the Steubenville guys will be shortly. My heart went out to her for the fright, the pain, and the worry she faced on a daily basis. And...wait for it...my heart went out to him too. One moment of lapsed reason caused him to go to jail for a couple of years and last I heard, he is in his 40s and lived in a halfway house until his mid-30s. 

Some of you may shriek, "Who the hell cares? He raped her." Yes, he did. However, it's a shame that two lives were damaged for years — not ruined (CNN, that's for you) — because of a moment that lasted for minutes. If you dare to remove emotion from this conversation, you may understand. And then again, you may not. Regardless of your personal ability to reason, the choice is yours to create your own resolve. Despite your conclusion, it's still a shame. The souls bruised. The reporting overall. The petition also. What do you think?

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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