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Was ESPN unfair to quarterback cleared of rape charges? You bet it was.

The Jameis Winston rape investigation underscored the stark double-standard in the way we treat young men accused of rape as opposed to the women who accuse them.

Winston is the 19-year-old star quarterback for the Florida State University Seminoles and frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. On December 5, 2013, state prosecutors announced that no sexual assault charges would be filed against Mr. Winston stemming from a sexual encounter with a female student that occurred last year. A female student at the school had accused Winston of rape after an encounter that two of Winston’s teammates witnessed and described as consensual. The state attorney said prosecutors did not even have enough evidence (probable cause) to arrest Winston, much less charge or convict him.  The accuser’s blood-alcohol level was 0.04%, which the state attorney said was “not very high.” There was no evidence of any drugs in her blood system. Another DNA sample from a different man was found on the accuser’s shorts, and the accuser “acknowledged having sex with her boyfriend . . . .”

End of story, right? Wrong.

Shortly after that announcement, FSU beat Duke University 45-7 to win the ACC championship. ESPN reporter Heather Cox trotted down to the field to interview Winston on national television. See here. In the course of that interview, Cox did something that should outrage all persons of good will, but of course, it didn’t.

First, Cox loosened Winston up with a series of innocuous, softball questions about the rape investigation – for example, about how his coach supported him — and the young man did his best to answer them.

But then, suddenly, without changing her tone, Cox switched gears and whipped out a question that was anything but innocuous. In fact, it was the ultimate “gotcha” question — the atom bomb of questions to pose to a young man accused of rape. No matter how Winston might try to answer it, it would make him look guilty to most observers.

Cox asked Winston why he exercised his Fifth Amendment by not speaking with authorities in the investigation. Specifically: “How come you decided not to talk during the process and on Thursday?”

Let us pause briefly to explain why Cox’s question was so terribly inappropriate. The refusal to speak to police is a right sacrosanct to our freedoms that is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution:  “. . . nor shall any person . . . be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself . . . .”  The Supreme Court has made it clear that this right wasn’t designed to safeguard the guilty but the innocent: “. . . one of the Fifth Amendment’s basic functions is to protect innocent men who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.”  In a criminal case, the burden remains on the prosecution to prove a defendant’s guilt, and every citizen enjoys the right to refuse to provide information that may assist the prosecution in its efforts to accuse, charge, or convict him of a crime. So important is this right that Justice Felix Frankfurter described it as “one of the greatest landmarks in man’s struggle to make himself civilized.”

The Supreme Court has also recognized that “[t]oo many, even those who should be better advised, view this privilege as a shelter for wrongdoers. They too readily assume that those who invoke it are either guilty of crime or commit perjury in claiming the privilege.” It is for this reason that judges instruct juries that no adverse inference may be drawn from a defendant’s refusal to testify. Prosecutors are not allowed to make an issue to the jury out of a defendant’s refusal to speak.

The average person thinks that if a man accused of rape has nothing to hide, he should just tell the police what happened because the truth can never hurt him. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works.  The Innocence Project Web site is replete with the cases of young men who had the same wrong idea. The Supreme Court has stated that “one of the Fifth Amendment’s basic functions is to protect innocent men who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.”

ESPN’s Heather Cox is a seasoned sports reporter and no dummy. Cox surely knows, or should know, that the average person would infer that a refusal to talk to police is a sign of guilt. That didn’t stop her from playing “gotcha” on national television with a young man who, despite his fame, is still just a teenager trying to cope with an explosion of attention.

Exactly what purpose did the question serve? Are we to believe that Cox didn’t know damn well why Winston did not talk to the police? Obviously, his attorney told him not to. Cox also knew or should have known damn well that when she ambushes an unprepared 19-year-old with that particular question, he isn’t going to be able to provide an off-the-cuff tutorial about the Constitution that would to satisfy anyone.

If Cox wanted a real answer to that question, she should have posed it to Winston’s attorney. Our guess is that a real answer isn’t what ESPN was after. Our guess is ESPN was looking for Winston to stumble around and look guilty so that ESPN could convict him in the court of last resort, the court of public opinion.

After Cox asked the question, Winston did the right thing, in fact, the only thing he could do. He walked away. It was the smartest play he made all day, and that’s saying a lot.

What’s disheartening is that Cox and Cox’s bosses at ESPN might think that insinuating Winston’s guilt ambush-style, before a national audience, made for “good” television.

Would Cox and ESPN dream of asking the accuser why the police report reveals that the case was suspended last February due to a lack of cooperation from her? And about how the investigation was only jumpstarted in November by the news media? Of course not.  To even consider asking her those questions would cause many to brand the questioner guilty of the ultimate sin, “victim blaming.”

You see, it’s wholly unfair to ask a rape accuser why the police say she didn’t cooperate, yet it’s somehow fair to make a presumptively innocent teenage male look guilty on national television by asking why he exercised a Constitutional right that many brave young men his age have died for.

But that’s how it goes in the loopy, politicized climate that surrounds all things rape. Need more examples?  While the rape investigation was ongoing, Winston’s FSU played the University of Florida Gators and some Gators fans wore T-shirts emblazoned with the following: “The Rapers: Forced Sex University.” The shirts were intended to maliciously attack the presumptively innocent Winston by suggesting he’s a rapist, in the sometimes cruel spirit of intense college football rivalries.

The editors of the University of Florida student newspaper, the Florida Alligator, should have been outraged that their peers took twisted delight in treating a presumptively innocent man as if he were a rapist. Indeed, the newspaper took issue with the shirts, but not for the right reason. They wrote an editorial that said the shirts would send “a damaging message to women that” – wait for it – “victim-blaming is inevitable . . . .” And if that wasn’t enough, on behalf of the school, the editors apologized to “the victim and her family.”

We can’t make up this stuff. And that’s not all. Emily Bazelon, a self-proclaimed feminist, wrote the following about the Winston case: “Whether schools should punish athletes who have been accused but not convicted—or in Winston’s case, even charged—is a hard call.”

In what other setting would people of good will sit still for such comments?

It goes on. The pundits trotted out the tired old arguments that suggested Winston’s guilt. Fox Sports reporter Clay Travis wrote: “Would this woman subject herself to intense questioning, physical examinations by strangers — it’s reasonable to assume she was treated by medical professionals that night to assess her well-being and examine her for signs of physical trauma — if nothing at all happened to her?”  Similarly, Emily Bazelon wrote the following: “. . . it is hard for me to imagine that she had consensual sex with Winston and then decided to lie and say it was rape.” (Bazelon also took offense because the prosecutor stated publicly that the accuser “acknowledged having sex with her boyfriend” at some point prior to the encounter with Mr. Winston. Bazelon says this amounted to “slut shaming.”)

We refuse to opine about what happened in that bedroom between Winston and the accuser. Only the parties who were present know for sure. We won’t brand the accuser a liar, and we won’t brand Mr. Winston a rapist. But in response to Mr. Travis’ and Ms. Bazelon’s queries about why a woman in the accuser’s position might lie to police, Bazelon has already provided one answer: fear of “slut shaming.”  If you need a real world example, check out the Hofstra false rape case. A young woman lied about rape in the Hofstra case likely because she was embarrassed that she was cheating on her boyfriend in a way society considers nasty. There is a “regret asymmetry” when it comes to sexual encounters that divides the sexes. It is a significant reason for rape lies. See here.

And we won’t even talk about the comments by pundits who suggested Winston was guilty based on the fact that rape is underreported. I mean, because it happens elsewhere, it must have happened here, too, right? Of course!

We are stranded in an era where young men accused of sexual assault are presumed guilty by people who write for major news outlets, and where anyone who dares to speak up for the rights of the presumptively innocent is demonized with terms like “victim blaming.” It is long past time to heed the call of John Leo, the prestigious editor of the “Minding the Campus” web site. Mr. Leo urges everyone to confront the notion that ours is a “rape culture.” He writes: “Stupid ideas spread when people who know better refuse to confront them.” That about sums it up.

  • http://blog.StudioBrule.com Steve Brulé

    These stories send a chill down my spine. We are living through yet another period of mass-hysteria. It seems that history is doomed to repeat. Lynch mobs gather every time a woman cries rape, just like during the witch hunts. And the mainstream-media is the worst offender whipping up the mobs.

  • Bewildered

    Heather Cox should be taken to task.

    • SlantyJaws

      She needs to be taken to court, her and every other individual making slanderous insinuations, especially the “bloggers”. We’ll see how long the court of public opinion passes judgement when the judges are paying six figures in damages each.

      • donzaloog

        Sorry. I downvoted you by mistake. It was supposed to be an upvote.

  • Bewildered

    Mr. Leo urges everyone to confront the notion that ours is a “rape culture.” He writes: “Stupid ideas spread when people who know better refuse to confront them.”

    Absolutely !

    Heather Cox needs to be retrained. She seems to be more interested on commenting on the wrong kind of sport.

  • toothless

    What a dishonest cunt, she has no business being a sport reporter if she is not going to the athlete about the sport they take part in.

    We saw this with these female sport reporter who complained that when they went into the locker room they saw… NAKED MEN!!!!!

    I want to point out i have nothing against female sport reporter , only these dishonest one who just look for thing to bitch about and not into sport.

    • Paul Johnson

      Ines Sainz?

      • toothless

        no it was in hockey il try and find it i heard it on the tv they where asking our local female sport reporter ( i really do like her ,she know her sport and is good with player ) what she thought about the recent event and male nudity in the player locker and how she felt about it . She answered very carefully saying it was their locker and the reporter are guest in there.

    • Falland

      A reporter who is covering famous athletes understands quite well how many groupies there are chasing these guys and how easy it is for them to have sex.

  • Fredrik


    That was even more than I asked for. I feel a little weird typing this out loud, but the Fifth Amendment has kind of become a men’s issue, thanks to a misandrist justice system — and with “trial by media,” I think that they count too. Your juxtaposed explanation and example are so powerful, I appreciate it more than words can say.

    • crydiego

      Well said Fredrik, The corner stones of the Men’s Rights Movement, as a short list, are the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, and 13th amendments.
      I’m not sure if the teams shouldn’t require a lawyer present at all interviews. Cox wasn’t there to interview about the football game, she was there for another game!

      • Karlo

        You missed the 2nd amendment ……

        • Fredrik

          Personally, I feel safer without a gun in the home, but I know guys who supplement their income by trying to bring home a moose or elk every year. I wouldn’t include the 2nd on a list of cornerstones myself, but I can picture it there.

  • Bahias

    Is rape-hysteria the new terrorist-hysteria?

    • numbCruncher

      Yes, there are strong parallels. Massive amounts of governmental resource devoted to hounding a few men, a culture sensitised to the slightest suspicion, exaggeration of the scope of the problem, excessive media coverage, rampant out-grouping etc.

  • numbCruncher

    “Would this woman subject herself to intense questioning, physical examinations by strangers … if nothing at all happened to her?”

    This applies to ALL rape accusations. So, no point in having a trial to test ANY rape accusation then? Shall we just abandon the process of law?

    Because you know how that will end…

    • Aimee McGee

      Why indeed?

      Attention, celebrity and assured victimhood.

    • DragonFire

      What intense questioning?
      Apparently, not believing everything out of a woman’s mouth is slut shaming and victim blaming.

      This woman knew (if she didn’t , she certainly found out quickly) that there is a massive support out there for her, if she makes certain allegations.

      These people will support her, even if she blatantly lies, and those lies are exposed. They will insist that she is the victim, even if the man she accuses is so plainly innocent that even an idiot could see it.

      In the face of that rabid support, what does she have to fear from ‘intense questioning’??

  • OneHundredPercentCotton

    I guess THIS is what is meant by “We gotta doooooo something”.

    “Men need to get together and dialogue about what we gotta doooooo”.

    It’s a return to lynch mobs where a woman’s word is taken as truth no matter how impossible or improbable. It’s a return to the constraints and restrictions of the dreaded ’50’s for men, while women enjoy their “liberation” from the constraints and restrictions of that era.

    It’s a Pleasantville living color in rainbows for women, but it will always be strictly black and white for men.

  • kronk3

    And STILL the lying accuser has no accountability! There is absolutely no reason for feminist to ever stop since they are all but guaranteed to get off Scott free!

    I mean really, are they just looking for their 15 mins. of fame because this guy is a football star? How reprehensible her crime of false accusation but even worse, nobody does a damn thing about it!!!

  • crydiego

    Heather Cox knew exactly what she was doing and was hoping that the young man would make a mistake because of his exuberance for his teem winning. She knew he had been told not to say anything and she tried to rape him! Heather Cox should openly apologize!

  • greg
  • MGTOW-man

    The “victim blaming” concept the way feminists apply it and try to manipulate the weak is a yet another way for feminists to be simultaneously stupid, oblivious, and devious all rolled into one nutshell. There can be no other best way to illustrate how misguided these people are.

    This ranks up there with “political correctness” as some of the most manipulative twists on things in an atmosphere of hideous hostility towards men and boys that feminists have devised. Either they are mean as hell, just stupid, or completely oblivious how irrational and unfit their use of this concept that is rife with deceit, feelings, and well, thievery is, or they somehow manage to put a face on all three.

    This is serious business. Thus,…

    Another person thinks I am too harsh on the average men out there for them not doing their jobs as “real” men (which is to say they have been duped, confused, and traitorous… at least indirectly…regardless of how “well-intended” they may be). However, it is those very men I harp on who HAVE to see this harrowing misrepresentation of truth about so called “victim-blaming” be twisted into an irrational and hurled hate-bomb for men.

    Do I point my finger at just the ditzy-mean women who use this miscarriage of truth in a vile and selfish, hideously twisted way or is it fair to also say that average men are on the other side of this pointy finger doing NOTHING but sucking up more and more—whatever gets them favored by women. Is it fair to point my own fingers (as well as the many who join me) at men who are just “hardwired” to play the biology function of humanity…and “can’t help it?”

    Do I really need to answer that question?

    I’ll leave you with this. How are we going to solve the issues we face if we limit ourselves to understanding and changing only HALF the problem?

    Peace! United, we stand a chance; Divided, we will be erased!

  • Fredrik

    Say, Pierce, as long as you’re taking requests… Have you thought about the International Conference on Men’s Issues? If you’re a good public speaker and they’d have you, I took a gander at the list of speakers and the only legal expert appears to be Robert Franklin of the National Parents Organization, who focuses on family court. There are a lot of differences between family law and criminal law, and I think that the ICoMI could use someone whose focus is on the latter.

    • Fredrik

      On a silly note, I’ve been staring at that acronym, wondering how to pronounce it, and it tickles me to imagine people calling it the “I see, oh my” conference. 😉

  • farkennel

    We cant win.If some piece of lying shit is found out to be a piece of lying shit,the innocent man isn`t the “true victim”.It`s “all women who will be afraid to report in the future”.who are the true victims.Brilliant strategy by the feminazis….eternal victim status and many mens lives destroyed along the way(bonus) with no recourse for the male falsely accused and no victim status(where it belongs).

  • Mike Brentnall

    The young quarterback again emerges victorious over yet another protected domestic player from team woman. Both had no proper business behaving the way they did.

    Individual men in this cultural era have paid enough dues already.

  • Karlo

    I hope this young QB goes Zeta or MGTOW very soon

  • East1956

    Are we really astounded? Rape / sexual assault have become part of media hysteria and the presumption of guilt on the part of men has become part of the non-judicial fabric of our society.
    About 3 weeks ago the venerable Newsnight programme on BBC2 had a piece about the rise in the numbers of convictions for rape (now 2/3’s of all those that reach court). But what was astounding was the explicit presumption that those men that were not convicted, were rapist who had simply got away with it. There was no idea that at the end of the court case the jury simply didn’t find the prosecution’s case sufficiently compelling and supported by evidence to find the defendant guilty.

    • Fredrik

      It is a simple matter to deduce that innocent men are more likely to reject plea deals, and so if there is a sudden increase in convictions in cases that go to trial, then it is going to be largely composed of guys that didn’t do it. Damn bricks of logic, flying out everywhere!

    • donzaloog

      A man accused of rape is presumed guilty until proven innocent and even after being proven innocent he’s presumed guilty.

  • donzaloog

    People need to stop backing down when the media pulls out one of their tired buzzwords like “slut-shaming” and “victim blaming” because those words are designed to shut down dialogue and end objectivity. It’s not slut shaming to recognize the fact that this woman has sex with 2 men the night of this incident. It’s slut identification.

    In a normal situation I don’t give a damn how many people a person has sex with. That your business. But when an accusation is made, especially one of a sexual nature, your sexual history is on the table as it must be. What’s more important to society? That this woman is allowed to keep her sexual history pertaining to this case a secret and put this man in jail on false charges? Or that we bring that sexual history to light and let the evidence speak for itself?

    When the rape kit reveals 2 different samples of semen and the victim admits to having sex with her boyfriend before the alleged encounter, that victim loses her credibility. At that point any reasonable person should be able to draw the conclusion that she lied about being raped to protect herself from the shame of admitting she cheated on her boyfriend.

    I swear high profile men should cut themselves of from their sexual need for women. I know that’s nigh impossible but they stand to lose so much. There are too many trifling women out there willing to throw a man under the bus to cover their own ass. Your life means NOTHING to them.