CNN Sympathizes With Rapists

Earlier this week CNN’s coverage of a Steubenville, Ohio rape case was criticized for being slanted. You can watch a clip of the network’s coverage above. The high profile trial had attracted national attention, in part for the way that the victim was treated online. In the clip, CNN anchor Candy Crowley and correspondent Poppy Harlow cover the verdicts that were rendered to two teenage boys who were convicted of raping a teenage girl. CNN’s coverage was criticized by The Huffington Post, in which Kia Kakarechi called out the network for its “embarrassing and damaging coverage.” Most notable were the phrases used by Harlow, which appeared to deflect blame and show sympathy for the perpetrators who had just been convicted of rape.

Kathryn O’Driscoll, a UK-based blogger, effectively parsed Harlow’s and Crowley’s words to reveal the slant. Following are excerpts from the video followed by O’Driscoll’s responses, which seem to be right on target.

Harlow: “these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.” O’Driscoll: “What about the victim? What about her life falling apart?”

Harlow: “He collapsed. He collapsed …” O’Driscoll: “[This] elicits sympathy. He collapsed? What about her?”

Harlow: “… alcohol a huge part of this …” O’Driscoll: “[This] detracts blame.”

Harlow: “… it’s really something that will have a lasting impact, much more of a lasting impact than going to a juvenile facility for one or two years …” O’Driscoll: “But less impact than the permenant (sic) scars of traumatic rape.”

Moreover, as O’Driscoll points out, the network aired the perpetrators’ apologies to the victim, which itself seemed to elicit sympathy for those who committed the crime. That CNN aired the victim’s name is itself problematic, for many (if not most) news outlets have strict policies against revealing the names of rape victims.

So what are the ethics here? When examining O’Driscoll’s response to Harlow’s coverage, it’s hard not to see the slant of the reportage. But was it intentional? That’s hard to say, of course. Regardless, that Harlow and Crowley appeared to have so much sympathy for the perpetrators and so little for the victim is telling. Then again, it would have been best if CNN had covered the story objectively showing no emotion whatsoever; that would have been the right thing to do. However, they didn’t do that. Instead, they covered a news event subjectively during which they appeared to direct sympathies toward those who had just been convicted of a brutal crime.

Sources: CNN,,

8 thoughts on “CNN Sympathizes With Rapists

  1. Thanks for sharing, Carrie. This really helps point out the need for us as a society to realize how we treat victims of rape in this country!

  2. If you’d like to see the “leaked” video pertaining to the girl, please click on Carrie’s link above. Please be aware that it’s quite disturbing.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Dan. It certainly seems to provide more context for CNN’s coverage and would seem to support the idea that CNN’s Crowley, Harlow, and their producer(s), in addition to the attorney that Crowley interviewed, were either grossly uninformed about this case (that so many in Steubenville seemed implicated in a cover up) or knowing took the position they did in their reporting. Either way the result was not good.

  4. If I had to guess, I’d say this whole “OMG CNN Sympathises with Rapists!!!” idea is simply a result of miscommunication. Given the tone of the CNN newscaster, she seems to sympathise with the rapists. Given the transcript however, I think the argument could be made either way.

    News organizations usually refrain from focusing on the victim of rape, as it can lead to exploitation of the victim and urging him/her to recall traumatizing events, which can further exacerbate the situation and hinder the victim’s right to privacy and recovery. I think in this case, someone higher-up didn’t want to focus on the victim for this reason, yet probably didn’t make that clear to whoever was tasked with doing the report. This person then thought that the higher-up wanted to focus on the perpetrators, and probably even wanted to show the consequences of being a rapist. In doing so, I think it came off as being a story sympathizing with rapists.

    This is nobody’s fault, it is simply miscommunication. I highly doubt that a news organization that has been doing stories about human dignity for several decades would suddenly forget its history and take the side of the rapists. I think this was simply a mistake, exacerbated by a public that is growing more and more distrustful of news organizations.

  5. Well said, Patrick, well said. But if so, it would be nice to more about the precise nature of the miscommunication. They might not have wanted to impinge on the victim, but they should have thought about how not doing so would have sounded. Of course, without interviewing Crowley and Harlow, we’ll never know. I’d like to give CNN the benefit of a doubt, too, but at the same time I’m curious about the route they took in covering the verdicts.

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