New York Times Responds to Winston Article

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I am writing in response to Stuart Taylor's recent article in RealClearSports. In assessing his criticism of the New York Times coverage of the Jameis Winston rape allegation, keep in mind this fact: Taylor acknowledges that his collaborator works for “Chop Chat,” a self-described “Florida State Seminoles Fan Site.” So much for Taylor’s objectivity.

Taylor contends that The Times should have devoted more space to evidence suggesting that Winston’s accuser lied. But the school’s hearing officer, who reviewed all the available evidence, did not agree with Taylor’s unproven theory.

“You (Winston) and your advisor have asserted that (accuser) intentionally fabricated an elaborate lie, but I am not prepared to conclude as much,” the hearing officer wrote. “A person’s mental state, whether it be the result of trauma, stress, anxiety or the like, can affect the person’s memory which can possibly improve with time. In fact, this is a matter addressed in the training of hearing bodies. This issue was also addressed by Ms. Walker and Ms. Chatfield, a victim’s advocate who worked with (accuser). There is evidence that (accuser) was in such a state of mind following her encounter with you ….”

The hearing officer ultimately wrote that he did "not find the credibility of one story substantially stronger than that of the other." Similarly, The Times' long article on the case, published last April, took no position on whether the sexual encounter between Mr. Winston and his accuser was rape or consensual sex. Instead, our article - entitled "A Top Player Accused, And A Flawed Rape Inquiry" - focused on the deeply flawed investigation of the rape allegation by the authorities. The police allowed key evidence – including a video recording of the actual sexual encounter - to disappear, rendering any definitive judgment about what happened impossible. If you doubt that conclusion, read what the local prosecutor, Willie Meggs, said in interviews with The Times. Speaking of the police, he said:

“They just missed all the basic fundamental stuff that you are supposed to do.”

“The case was not properly investigated from the start. There were so many things that needed to be done that did not get done.”

“Had it been done right from the get-go …. we would certainly have more clarity.”

It is equally important to note that, 10 months after publication of our article, neither Winston nor his two attorneys have contacted The Times with any complaints about our coverage. In fact, no one – including Taylor – has been able to cite any factual inaccuracies in our coverage.

Taylor concludes that “The Times has sought to prove to its readers that the clearing of Winston by three separate investigations was driven by favoritism for athletes, solicitude for accused males and callousness toward rape victims.”  As a matter of fact, those statements are not found anywhere in our article. A far more reasonable conclusion, as the prosecutor has acknowledged, is that the poor police investigation made it impossible for the truth of what happened on the night in question to be ascertained - a disservice to both the accuser and the accused. And for that reason, The Times focused its report on the flawed investigation.

 

Matthew Purdy

Deputy Executive Editor

The New York Times

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