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Journalists should be held accountable like you and me: A response to Kevin Sullivan

Due to it’s timely matter, The Commentator has decided to publish this piece online. It will also appear in our physical publication later this month. 

On Monday, January 6th columnist Kevin Sullivan published an opinion column in the Daily Emerald that left a rather sour taste in my mouth. Of course, I’m not much of one to read the Emerald regularly (because I already know how to have fun in the snow in Bend and find an instruction manual for this not necessary), but when I happened upon Kevin’s most recent opinion piece “Athletes should be held accountable like you and me” I knew a response from The Commentator would be necessary. Of course, here at The Commentator, we couldn’t agree more with Kevin’s notion that athletes are a favored bunch throughout our national universities (and especially here at UO). Kevin, we commend your effort to put these athletes in their place and ensure that everyone is held accountable for their actions.

The problem with Kevin’s piece is his insight into the Jameis Winston rape case that was closed a little over a month ago in December. Writes Kevin:

         Imagine a case of sexual assault. A 9-11 call surfaces after a month of the case being in the mainstream news but a year after the survivor first reported the rape. The survivor has already identified the man who had raped her and DNA evidence had proven that he indeed had sex with her.
        This guy was obviously convicted right?

Now hold it right there, Kevin. Why should this guy obviously be convicted? Based on the story you just told, I reached the conclusion that the man should obviously not be convicted! We’re supposed to think that DNA evidence proving that two people had sex is evidence of rape? Because there’s no such thing as consensual sex, right Kev?

I’m not here to argue against the innocence of Winston […] I’m here to state the truth writes Kevin right after conclusively referring to Winston as “the man who had raped her“. Welcome to America, where all are guilty until proven innocent… good thing our justice system doesn’t operate on the same rules that Kevin does.  All I’m saying is that we have words like “alleged” so that journalists can refer to the accused without definitively calling them, as Kevin does,  “the assailant“. Throughout his piece, it is clear that Kevin has made his mind up about the Winston case. He repeatedly refers to the accuser as “the victim” and contextualizes the story in a way that makes it obvious to us all that the tenant of “innocent until proven guilty” is only applicable until an Ol’ Dirty Emerald columnist decides that it is not. And all this in a piece where Kevin calls out the media for not properly framing a story and for “poorly reported stories“. Kev, we’re all beginning to drown in the irony here.

Of course, I cannot disagree with your main point that the accuser received a lot of hate from FSU fans and the public alike. Yes, that happened, but it does not determine whether or not Winston is guilty or not. Let’s be honest this rape allegation will always be tied in with Jameis Winston’s name as well. The truth is, there just was not enough evidence to convict Jameis of anything. This doesn’t mean that he isn’t a rapist, but (without concrete evidence) we will never know what happened.  Of course, since Kevin is already sure of his verdict, we invite him to pour through the case evidence that the state attorney released.

The point is, while there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with our judicial system, it’s ethically wrong to debase the innocent until proven guilty that our justice system is based on. Kevin, until you’re ready to present concrete evidence that Jameis Winston is a rapist, we cannot refer to him as one. And when you do have that concrete evidence, we highly encourage you to fax it over to the Tampa police so the case can be reopened.

It was not only Kevin’s absurdly definitive reporting of Winston’s guilt that infuriates us here at The Commentator. It seems like it would also be relevant to point out here that the opinion piece misreported a couple things. Writes Kevin:

[O]ne insightful anchor on “Good Morning America” put it on Dec. 12, “I just want this one to go away.”
Let me repeat that.
One of the anchors from ‘Good Morning America,” the leading morning show in America, said that he wanted the story of the Winston case to “go away.”

Good thing you repeated this twice, Kevin. Does that mean we can charge you with two accounts of false reporting? Take a look at the video that is being referenced, and I think it will be as clear to you as it was to me- Stephanopoulos says “They just want this one to go away.” Of course, by changing this one critical word you completely change the intention of Stephanopoulos’ comment. I see what you did there. Clever, Kev. Very clever.

Of course, why stop here? Let’s also get a source for those statistics you’re referencing. Writes Kevin: “the percentage of women who falsely report rape is very low and not any higher than any other false reporting of other crimes” I’ll forget about how terribly phrased this sentence is for a minute, so I can present some statistics:

Since 1996 “unfounded” rape accusations are reported by the FBI to be around 8%, while other index crimes have been around 2%.  Of course, “unfounded” does not necessarily mean “false allegation”. It is almost impossible to discover the true percentage of false rape accusations, but many estimate that they are higher than index crimes. Of course, I’m guessing Kevin found his statistics in “Against Our Will”. Nice. Very reliable source, Kev.

“Football should not trump […] our judicial system” writes Kevin in conclusion to his article. Let us remind you, Kev, that bad journalism should not trump our judicial system either.

Alright, kiddos, that’s all we’ve got until we hear back from Kevin. In the meantime let’s all remember that everyone accused of rape is guilty, especially if there isn’t enough evidence to prove it.

Thomas Tullis

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  3. Why the fuck did I read this says:

    What if it was a female friend of yours or a female relative who accused someone of raping them, went and received medical attention after it happened, and they had DNA proof that a sexual encounter happened that matched up with the accused. Would you be so quick to tell that woman, who you presumably care about (this is going a long way in assuming that you actually care about any woman at all because if you truly did and had any respect for them you wouldn’t have such misogynistic beliefs), that she needs to provide more “concrete evidence” and without it her claims aren’t ethical? I would hope not.

    But by your argument and your adamant beliefs in “innocent until proven guilty” you are probably guilty of some pretty rapey sexual encounters yourself.

  4. Sam DK says:

    Kevin Sullivan is a joke. Arrogant preteen journalist that failed in his political ambitions, so he writes trash pieces for the emerald.

  5. Ponta-

    I’m not promoting dismissal of rape accusations. I’m just saying, there needs to be evidence and DNA evidence of sex is not evidence of rape.

    “It’s so much safer to believe someone who says they were raped” I’m not saying we shouldnt believe accusers, but convicting someone of rape without proof beyond a reasonable doubt is unethical.

    Better 1000 guilty men go free than one innocent be locked up.

  6. Ponta says:

    If a girl goes to the police and there is DNA evidence, it’s very, VERY unlikely they are making up the fact that they were raped. It’s so much safer to believe someone who says they were raped than to create a culture where it’s normalized to dismiss a rape accusation. Where did you get the 8% statistic, by the way? This article sounds like it was written by a dude-bro who doesn’t understand what it’s like to be raped in a culture that routinely dismisses trauma. Seriously, think before you post. It’s fair to criticize Kevin Sullivan’s article, but NOT like this.

  7. Sam Stites says:

    Thanks for the feedback Thomas. Would you be interested in writing a rebuttal to be published by the Emerald. Thanks again! Best,

    Sam Stites

  8. Ol’ Dirty vet, let me make myself clear- I’m not arguing that Jameis’ hands are clean at all. I’m only arguing for due process

  9. Ol' Dirty Vet says:

    I cringe, Kevin, that you bring up the LaMichael James incident, not because I think LaMichael is perfect and shouldn’t be scrutinized. But because that incident was overblown in the media at the time and dealt with through the proper channels.

    If you wanted to make a case, talk about the number of chances Jeremiah Masoli got or some of the things Cliff Harris was able to swipe under the rug before said rug became too piled up. Don’t lump in the highly sensationalized and disputed report for James with a plainly proven and demonstrable conspiracy that we’re seeing in the Jameis case.

    No one’s arguing that Jameis’ hands are clean, but for the grievances listed above by Mr. Tullis, your mitts aren’t exactly sparkling either.

  10. Here’s the original article by Kevin:

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