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Controversy Over NYT‘s Reporting of Yale QB Scandal

Other voices in the media are now questioning the New York Times’ reporting on the allegations against Yale’s quarterback, Patrick Witt. Kathleen Parker at the Washington Post writes that the article

essentially indicted and convicted a 22-year-old star football player on an alleged sexual assault charge by an anonymous accuser should have begun as follows:

“We know absolutely nothing about this rumor except what six people told us anonymously about this guy who they say sexually assaulted this girl. We don’t know who she is or what she said, or really anything, but here’s HIS name and what ‘they’ say about him.”

She concludes that,

Without any facts, it would have been easy enough to conclude that Witt withdrew his Rhodes application because he was guilty of something, as the Times implied. But this would have been an assumption based on an allegation circulated by anonymous accusers. There’s not much meat there, except the red kind, metaphorically speaking, that sends mobs in search of their pitchforks.

This is the danger of anonymous sources. However, the question remains whether Witt was still under consideration for the Rhodes Scholarship when he announced his decision to play in the Harvard-Yale game, as the Rhodes Trust has declined to comment on this story. Also, let us not downplay, as the Washington Post does, that there was an allegation of sexual assault:

Who knows what “assault” even means as used in this case? The definition of assault can range from “unwanted sexual advance” to rape as most understand it. As long as we’re making inferences based on anonymous allegations, an inquisition by any other name, we might just as readily conclude that this was no rape. The accuser first reported whatever happened to the university’s Politburo-sounding “Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center,” then later filed an informal complaint with the “University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.” Why not just call it “The Torquemada Institute”?

To compare Yale’s attempts to prevent sexual assault to the Inquisition is unnecessary hyperbole.

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