Anderson’s lynch mobs ride again!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2011

From the annals of plush toilet paper: A week ago Monday, David Carr profiled Anderson Cooper in the New York Times.

In our view, Carr fawned to Cooper too much, though that's required by Hard Pundit Law. But at various junctures, Carr conveyed the depth of this cable anchor’s intellectual degradation:
CARR (11/7/11): In addition to his journalistic interest in global calamity, Mr. Cooper is a professed fanboy of the conjured drama and celebrity of shows like ''Real Housewives.'' Rather than try to blend those high/low interests on his evening news program, Mr. Cooper decided he would host a daytime talk show.

[...]

"I am having fun doing this, learning about how to do it right," he said. "I want to have real conversations with people and tell their stories. I am personally happiest when I do multiple things, and I think people understand that we all have multiple interests."

Maybe so, but after watching a recent episode of "Anderson" in which Mr. Cooper discussed the merits of plush toilet paper versus bargain brands, and engaged in a race to see which roll runs out first, I wondered if I would watch his next dispatch from a hurricane with new eyes. And that assumes he will have the time to put on the parachute and go. With an hour as a prime-time news anchor and an hour spent during the day, oh, say in a "Toddlers and Tiaras" debate with a woman who dressed her 3-year-old daughter as the hooker from "Pretty Woman," who has time to get to the next earthquake?
Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t give a flying falafel about what makes Cooper “personally happiest.” That said, he was never any good on his evening news show—and now he wastes many hours each day exploring “the merits of plush toilet paper.”

In our view, anyone who would do such a thing even once shouldn’t be allowed to anchor an evening news program. But Cooper still hosts that evening “news” show—though he’s even less prepared to conduct his discussions, thanks to the hours he wastes each day on his low-IQ, soul-crushing topics.

This makes this stupid man “personally happiest.” It also leads to disgraceful discussions like the pair he hosted last night.

Let’s skip past Cooper’s first discussion, in which Sunny Hostin again displayed the predictable, un-American fury of the cable TV “former prosecutor.” (To read the transcript, click here. Hostin got mad when Mark Geragos mentioned other famous cases where the cable lynch mobs got things wrong.) Let’s move ahead to his second discussion, in which two pundits saddled up and rode with the mob, displaying the remarkable lack of intelligence which typifies pundit culture.

In this second segment, Cooper invited Christine Brennan and Buzz Bissinger to star in the role of the lynch mob. They would soon be dragging their knuckles and braying out various thoughts that had popped into their heads. But first, the expert on plush toilet paper reviewed some new facts in the case.

Uh-oh! Someone had tried to defend himself! On cable TV, that’s just wrong:
COOPER: So far tonight, you've heard Jerry Sandusky describe what happened in a shower with a 10-year-old as “horseplay.” His lawyer says it's what jocks do. And you saw Mike McQueary, who witnessed it, try to retroactively redefine "Call my father" as “I stepped in and stopped it when talking about what he did.”

Well, tonight, breaking news! The Associated Press is now reporting that he's also claiming—McQueary is also claiming by e-mail that he actually went to police.

[...]

If this new report by the AP is correct, then McQueary has claimed in an e-mail that he actually went to police, that would be a significant change in, up until now, what was in the grand jury report and what many people were led to believe. There was no indication up until this e-mail from McQueary that the AP is reporting that McQueary had gone to the police.
Did Mike McQueary "step in and stop it" and “go to police?” Like Cooper, we have no idea. Of course, total ignorance rarely stops Cooper! He quickly suggested that McQueary is lying, making his snarky remark about the way McQueary is “try[ing] to retroactively redefine” what he said.

Just for the record, McQueary isn’t quoted saying he “went to police” in that AP report. He is quoted saying this: “I did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police.” There is no claim about who went to whom. As usual, Cooper was overstating the facts. It’s the one thing these life-forms do well.

Did McQueary “make sure it stopped?” Did he “have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police?” He has now made these claims in a pair of e-mails. Like Cooper and his various guests, we have no way of knowing what’s true.

But uh-oh! A target of the cable mob has tried to defend himself! Cooper’s pundits were soon expressing their fury, even as their fatuous host kept misstating facts. The plush paper expert faced Brennan first. We’re sorry, but this is just wrong:
COOPER: Christine, there's a report from CBS News citing the Associated Press, quote, "In the e-mail dated November 8 from McQueary's Penn State account and made available to the Associated Press by his friend on Tuesday, the assistant coach writes that he stopped the sexual assault and discussed it with police afterward."

That is clearly a big disconnect from what we've heard before which is in the grand jury report that McQueary didn't go to police. What did you make of this?
Sorry. For those of us who know how to read, the grand jury report doesn’t say that McQueary “didn't go to police.” Nor does McQueary’s e-mail say that he did. Cooper might have known these things if he spent a full day at this job—although we'll admit it's likely. But as Brennan responded, she lived up to Cooper’s low pundit standards:
BRENNAN (continuing directly): Clearly McQueary has been, you know, hit with a load of bricks here. I'm sure he's as shocked as anybody at how this exploded, I'm sure everyone at Penn State because of that cocoon they were living in, the thing that we've been describing, Anderson, in the story.

I'm not siding with him at all. But I think that this is a classic example of this sequestered new reality world of college football. All of a sudden being bombarded by real life, thankfully in this case. And now McQueary, whether he's changing his story, whether he remembered new things, but I'm sure that this is his reaction to the unbelievable firestorm that accurately has occurred here over the last 10 days or so.
Serving a lovely word salad, Brennan began to imagine how the past ten days has felt to McQueary. She also imagined two possibilities concerning his e-mails, neither one flattering. According to Brennan, McQueary may have “changed his story.” Or he may have “remembered new things.”

Christine Brennan has always been stupid. But cable dumbness turns ugly and dangerous when peoples’ lives are so plainly at stake. In fact, Brennan has no earthly idea what McQueary told the grand jury about these matters. She has no idea if he has “changed his story” in any way or “remembered new things” at all.

She does seem to know that the previous work on cable TV has been “accurate.” But then, these drooling sub-humans always say that. They never say that they themselves may have been wrong.

Can we talk? Brennan is making a judgment here: If she didn’t see X in the grand jury report, then X must not have been said. That judgment isn't real bright, if we understand the purpose of such a report. The grand jury isn’t writing a novel—a novel these pundits can stroke themselves to. The grand jury is explaining the reasoning behind its indictments. Such reports tend to leave out shit that isn’t relevant to those legal judgments.

(In its report, the grand jury says this: “The graduate assistant was never contacted by University Police and no other entity conducted an investigation until he testified to the grand jury in December 2010.” Presumably, the grand jury cites the first fact because it was the responsibility of the two men they indicted to make sure that the University Police acted. “No other entity conducted an investigation?” That doesn’t contradict McQueary’s e-mails, which make rather imprecise claims. Are the e-mails true? We don’t know.)

What did McQueary tell the grand jury about the topics now at question? Cooper and his cable droogs don’t have the slightest idea. But Bissinger does know the rules of his tribe. As the conversation turned to him, he managed to top Brennan’s dumbness:
COOPER (continuing directly): There's also this e-mail which obtained by NBC in which McQueary is telling former teammates that contrary to the grand jury report he did intervene, stop Sandusky's alleged rape of a young boy in a locker room shower. What do you make of the, of the inconsistency?

BISSINGER: It's bad. I think it's bad. I mean I am ceaselessly amazed at the stupidity that comes out of Happy Valley and State College, whether it's the judge, whether it's Sandusky, whether it's his lawyer and now McQueary. Because now there's inconsistencies.

And the one thing that made this case different from other sexual abuse minor cases was you had an adult eyewitness. And now he has managed to put himself in an inconsistent situation. We all know what defense attorneys do. They grab a herring and they go with it and they go with it.

And I don't know why the attorney general or someone said, “Mike, it's hard for you. Don't e-mail. Shut up about this.”
Do we have inconsistencies now? Bissinger has no idea. Beyond that, he seemed to assume that the authorities would have wanted to McQueary to “shut up about this.” Is it possible that McQueary asked their permission to float these additional facts in the face of the frenzy being generated by cable goons like Bissinger? Bissinger has no idea. But in the mind of this fiery pundit, a person who is getting death threats isn’t supposed to tell the truth because it creates “inconsistencies”—that is, because it contradicts the pleasing tale the pundit corps wants to tell.

Of course, facts mean nothing within this tribe. Within this tribe, Story is all—and most of the story is simply invented. As they continued discussing McQueary, the goons showed their skill at imagining things that must have been going on in his mind. Here you see the terminal dumbness of this pre-rational tribe:
COOPER: Christine, you were talking about this sort of closed atmosphere of college sports. Explain that a little bit to somebody who hasn't been in a big school like Penn State or with a big program like this. I mean, how powerful are they on a campus?

BRENNAN: Oh, I think more powerful than the police, probably than the governor. Often we're talking about small towns, Anderson, with these football programs that loom so large not only in the area but also in the nation. And the coaches, the fiefdom, the hierarchy here is unlike anything else.

You talk football, we talk about religion, talk about war and the military, and I think there's a lot of similarities there in terms of the structure. And the head coach is king. And especially someone like Joe Paterno, who's just this untouchable god to, like, a grad assistant like McQueary and all of these people...I'm sure that McQueary thought in the original, the grand jury version of McQueary's statements, going to Joe Paterno on a day off, going to his house—I'm sure McQueary thought that was way above and beyond what someone would do, because in this case McQueary is probably thinking Paterno is more important than the police.

[...]

BISSINGER: McQueary was scared to death. Christine makes a great point. In his going to Joe Paterno's house, that is like visiting God. I'm convinced that Paterno knew in 1998 and everyone clammed it up because it's football and they closed ranks. That's what they do. Not just the Penn State, every major college program.
Brennan is “sure” about McQueary’s thoughts. These two know all about what McQueary was thinking—also, everyone else!

This is the way a novel gets written. This is not cable “news.”

By the way: This is exactly the way Nancy Grace knew that Richard Ricci had plainly kidnapped Elizabeth Smart. It turned out Grace was totally wrong. But by that time, Ricci was dead.

Yes, this culture kills people. But so what? When the next cable chase comes around, these low-IQ hooligans always think they know what all the players must have been thinking. They don’t know how to read or reason well, but they're quite good at imagining. They knew all about the Duke lacrosse case; before that, they knew about the McMartin preschool case and the other bungled child sex abuse cases of the 1980s and 1990s. They knew that Kathleen Willey was credible. When the special prosecutor called her a liar, they knew they mustn’t tell.

Do you recall when this gang of goons was sure that Gary Condit had killed Chandra Levy? Remember all the disgraceful shit they dreamed up in that case?

Our pundits are exceptionally dumb and dishonest—and they’re usually happy to show it. For one especially stupid remark, just check Bissinger, discussing Sandusky this time:
BISSINGER: This idea that towel snapping is normal for a guy in his 50s to be towel snapping with a 10-year-old? I mean, Sandusky, get a life!

What he is trying to do—he is trying to woo and coo us and convince us just like he did woo and coo these victims. And I am convinced. I have read a lot of grand jury reports in my life. I won a Pulitzer Prize for investigating the Philadelphia court system. I have never seen a grand jury report like this. And I am sick and tired of defense attorneys saying, “It's allegations.”
Bissinger is sick and tired of defense attorneys defending their clients! And by the way, it’s hard pundit law: Anyone as dumb as this has won a Pulitzer Prize.

Can we talk? No one knows what McQueary actually told the grand jury. Nor does anyone know what he did that night in any detail, or whether he ever spoke to police in some manner or form. But the lynch mobs were having a grand old time getting rocks thrown through his windows and getting death threats called in on his phone. As always, they got angry when he dared to say they had some basic facts wrong.

These are very bad people. Their lofty leader now spends his days examining plush toilet rolls.

16 comments:

  1. This is (one important reason) why grand jury reports are not normally made public, especially before a trial. Such a report is a basic summary (not the same as a transcript of testimony, for instance), has specific legal aims, and is written for an audience that operates within that legal frame of discourse. A grand jury report is easily misinterpreted by people operating outside of that framework.
    Another thing about the grand jury process: the DA is going to be very careful about what s/he gets on the record. Generally, the DA elicits only the testimony and establishes only the evidence needed to get the indictment. In like fashion, the defense (not normally present at the grand jury hearing), once the pre-trial hearings and then the trial are underway, tries to keep certain things out of the record and makes sure that other things are amply incorporated into it. Both sides in our adversarial system deploy tactics of inclusion and exclusion as part of their larger strategies, whether one side is trying to conceal its strategy from the other, keep certain evidence out or get it in, not expose itself to lines of questioning in the trial, or set itself up for appeals....
    I guess I'm wondering why this report was published at all, since it was almost inevitable that it would be misused by the larger public, especially our illustrious press corps.
    Btw, I found the report an extraordinarily well written report in terms of the fundamentals of clarity and conciseness. Our journalists should study it.

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  2. gaw reply to mch...
    They will study but not fully comprehend, cherry picking facts, then distorting to fit their storyline.

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  3. It's obvious what happened here, Bob. The CNN producers got to "B" on the sports newsmakers Rolodex before anyone picked up the phone.

    How else to explain a Texas high school football expert and a dull figure skating columnist pontification on...and on and on about a Grand Jury summary (they obviously hadn't read) on the alleged pediphilia conducted by a famous assistant college football coach in Central Pennsylvania?

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. There is much to enjoy in The Howler's dissection of the arrogance and stupidity displayed by the players above.

    But Somerby is wrong to suggest that no one knows what McQueary told the grand jury. The prosecutors and the members of the grand jury certainly know.

    Furthermore, as a proud member of the media lynch mob out to get McQueary, you can't read the grand jury report and come to any other conclusion than McQueary utterly failed in his duty as a man and a human being to rescue that kid, or call the police in a timely fashion.

    Unless the grand jury report is hopelessly nonreflective of what was testified to by McQueary, he saw Sandusky raping a boy in the shower and he didn't intervene. According to the report, Mr. McQueary witnessed the crime, was seen by both Sandusky and the alleged victim and left the locker room "immediately, distraught."

    That the grand jury would leave out anything that McQueary did to stop the crime in progress or otherwise mischaracterize his actions and testimony is highly unlikely.

    Again, according to the grand jury, immediately after the incident, McQueary called his father and reported to him what he saw. Later, he called Coach Paterno. Not the police.

    I personally have serious doubts about what McQueary claims to have told Paterno and Penn State officials based on his reported conduct at the scene of the alleged crime. It seems very possible that because he didn't do more to save the kid, he was embarassed and he downplayed the details of what he saw. Would you want to admit you witnessed such a crime and then left the child in the hands of the rapist?

    As for McQueary's email, it is perfectly vague about what he supposedly did to "stop" the crime in progress. Showing up, seeing it, and then leaving, doesn't really count, does it?

    His claim of having discussions with police doesn't suggest when they took place, leaving the possibility that they could have occured much later.

    McQueary's conduct as reported by the grand jury, was a complete abdication of his duty to step in and help that child. Is it any wonder that he is being held in such contempt?

    As for the lynch mob out to get Paterno and the two Penn State officials (Tim Curley and Gary Schultz) the grand jury accuses of committing perjury, that is a mob I haven't joined. I already have serious doubts as to Curley's and Schultz' criminal guilt. It is after all, based on McQueary's word. And while the grand jury put enough stock in his word to indict two others for lying, I don't.

    In all, another interesting skewering by Somerby. The conclusion jumping engaged in and the hysterical willingness to assume facts not in evidence would be stunning, if not so routine.

    McQueary, however, is a different story. He has been done in by his own reported testimony. His carefully worded email to fend off criticism hardly exonerates him from his own horrible failure to act within seconds of witnessing this assault. Had he done so, he'd have been hailed a hero and Jerry Sandusky would have been put behind bars years ago.

    If only he'd acted. But he didn't. To his everlasting shame.

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  6. I guess I'm wondering why this report was published at all, since it was almost inevitable that it would be misused by the larger public

    I read both that it was leaked, and that it was posted on the internet accidentally. Who knows.

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  7. "McQueary's conduct as reported by the grand jury, was a complete abdication of his duty to step in and help that child. Is it any wonder that he is being held in such contempt?"

    As was just cited above, a grand jury report is not gospel. It often lies 180 degrees away from the truth.

    Personally, I also don't believe anything that I see on TV these days! Especially when it comes to sex. The minute I detect such anger and hysteria in the reporting of a story I know for sure that there's trouble somewhere. Usually inside these reporters.

    Years ago I was one of the few people around So Cal who disbelieved the McMartin flying-carpet child abuse stories. And you can't believe what I had to put up with-- it's like for some reason they NEED to believe such tawdriness.

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  8. The grand jury report was released by the state attorney general's office.

    There are no flying carpets in this story. Based on the availability of public information, it is very hard to believe that at least some of the allegations against Sandusky aren't true. Still, he retains his presumption of innocence as far as the legal system is concerned.

    There remain serious questions about what Coach Paterno and the two Penn State official were actually told by McQueary. Bissinger's guilt by association assertion that Paterno and others had to know what Sandusky was up to is simply irresponsible.

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  9. The Harrisburg Patriot News along with the sports comedy website, Deadspin, have been way, way out in front in covering this story (Believe it or not).

    Particularly, the Patriot News which first reported on the Sandusky investigation on March 31 - in a front page story.

    Anyway, regarding the Grand Jury report: Here is Deadspin (11/16/11):

    "With that in mind, let's review what we know about McQueary's statements so far:

    1. McQueary testified under oath, in graphic detail, that he saw the rape taking place. Because the full transcript of his testimony is sealed, we do not know exactly what he said.
    2. The grand jury's finding says McQueary met with Gary Schultz, who, in his capacity as vice president for business and finance, oversaw the university police. Schultz, along with athletic director Tim Curley, has been indicted for perjury and failure to report abuse. But that is the known extent of McQueary's contact with law enforcement until he testified before the grand jury."

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  10. Somerby's claim that McQueary's email didn't contradict his apparent grand jury testimony is mistaken. According to the grand jury report: "Schultz ... never reported the 2002 incident to the University police or other police agency," and asserts that "No one from the University did so."

    If McQueary, who was a university employee, "did have discussions with police," as he allegedly claimed in his email, then that implies that the police were informed of the incident in some manner.

    So yes, McQueary's email does appear to contradict the grand jury report.

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