The network's reporting appeared to focus more on the future lives of the convicted rapists than the victim.
On Sunday, two Steubenville high school football players, Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond, were convicted of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl. Mays and Richmond will spend at least a year in juvenile jail for the crime, but the victim will have to live with the emotional scars of the incident for the rest of her life.
But CNN's coverage of the case has been highly criticized for focusing more on the convicted rapists' future and not that of the victim. Those watching CNN's coverage tweeted their outrage towards the network for appearing to put more weight on grieving the lives of the convicted teens.
"Dear @CNN when reporting a story about rape you probably shouldn't try to make us feel bad for the rapists lives being ruined, #Steubenville," wrote @ScottySSWB.
Reports Gawker.com on CNN's coverage:
"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...," said CNN's Candy Crowley.
Legal expert Paul Callan told CNN this of the future of the young men:
...."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. Employers, when looking up their background, will see that they're registered sex offenders. When they move into a new neighborhood and somebody goes on the Internet, where these things are posted, neighbors will know that they are registered sex offenders."
The Huffington Post also reported:
In a Sunday afternoon segment, anchor Fredricka Whitfield followed the straight news of the guilty verdict (which she described as rape occurring "after a night of heavy partying") by showing the rapists' parents' weeping in court. Footage of Richmond, his mother and father offering emotional appeals to the victim's family dominated the segment.
Whitfield threw the story to reporter Poppy Harlow, but not before reiterating that Mays and Richmond's "family members tried their hardest to plead for some forgiveness from the victim's family, as well as from the judge."
To her credit, Harlow appeared to try and correct the segment's tone: "That's true Fredricka," she said of the tears of the convicted rapist's families, "but this is an incredibly serious crime, it's the crime of rape."
And yet, the effects of the rape on the victim seemed to be an afterthought: "It was incredibly emotional, it was difficult for anyone in there to watch those boys break down," Harlow said. "[It was] also difficult, of course, for the victim's family."
Read the full story here.
Let's not forget who are the real victims: It isn't Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond or their parents, but the 16-year-old girl they raped and her family.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, Pool)