NYT Responds to Criticism of Assault Coverage; Perpetrators Knew Girl Was 11 Years Old

11-year-old assault
The inside of the trailer where the 11-year-old Texas girl was raped.

Thanks to a petition and an outpouring of criticism from Times readers and bloggers alike, the New York paper has issued a contrite response to their initial coverage of the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in Cleveland, TX.  Public editor Arthur Brisbane wrote in an online-only column Friday, “My assessment is that the outrage is understandable.  The story dealt with a hideous crime but addressed concerns about the ruined lives of the perpetrators without acknowledging the obvious: concern for the victim.”

Brisbane notes that the one-sided reporting by the Times “led many readers to interpret the subtext of the story to be: she had it coming,” something a defense attorney in the case is still arguing.  Moreover, Brisbane conceded that the Associated Press “handled the story more deftly” by offering various perspectives from the community, quoting a local resident as saying, “She’s 11 years old. It shouldn’t have happened. That’s a child. Somebody should have said, ‘What we are doing is wrong.'”

Shelby Knox of said in an email to those who signed the petition demanding an apology from the Times that the paper’s response “isn’t perfect — it decries the lack of ‘balance,’ as if the paper should be providing equal voice to the concerns of the victims and her alleged attackers,” adding, “But because the Times is so high-profile, this condemnation still sends an important message to reporters all around the U.S. that readers will hold them accountable for insinuating that victims are somehow responsible for playing a role in their own sexual assaults.”

Meanwhile, the defense attorney hired to represent some of the 18 men and boys charged with the crime, James D. Evans III, told Gil Gross of San Francisco’s KGO radio Thursday that the suspects “were absolutely aware of the girl’s age,” the Houston Chronicle reports, noting that Evans “admitted it will be very difficult to come up with a defense.”

Sure, because how can anyone defend the indefensible?

Source: New York Times