Fox Sports’s Jason Whitlock has no fear of risks. In a much-discussed column last week, Whitlock slammed ESPN for botching its story about child-molestation allegations against Syracuse basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine. He said that the ESPN reporters “did the bare, legal minimum to protect their self-interest. They failed their moral obligation.” He characterized the reporting as “juvenile.”
So just what was so flimsy about the ESPN story? Oh, they had merely two on-the-record, first-hand sources telling their stories in long interviews. Not enough for Whitlock.
Is three good enough? That’s now the question, as another on-the-record alleged victim of Fine’s advances has come out of the shadows. Zach Tomaselli says he was fondled repeatedly by Fine in a hotel room in 2002. Another consideration: One of the victims has produced an audiotape of a conversation with Fine’s wife, Laurie, that does anything but exonerate the accused. Fine has been fired.
Those developments put Whitlock in a bind. How does he carry on without having to retract his “juvenile” column. Well, he does that in many ways, via a brand-new piece on the Fine mess:
*Humbly: “For those of you who can discern the truth within this Syracuse-Bernie Fine-child-molestation scandal, I tip my hat. You have a level of X-ray vision/intellect that escaped my limited physical/mental blessings.”
*Backpedally: “From where I sit — despite the allegations of a third accuser, the public airing of a secretly recorded conversation between Fine’s original accuser and Fine’s wife, and Syracuse’s abrupt decision to fire Fine on Sunday — the truth still appears extremely murky.”
*Throat-clearingly: “I’m a sportswriter, a pundit and an occasional journalist. My interest in the Fine scandal revolves around journalistic fairness and whether a possible lack of fairness will inhibit us from ever learning the truth about Fine.”
*Nasally: “Everything that has happened in the last week smells like public relations and not a search for truth.”
*Oh-yes-you-do-ly: “I don’t have a vested interest in the outcome.”
*Tea Partily: “Let’s hold off on treating Jim Boeheim like Joe Paterno and Bernie Fine like Jerry Sandusky at least until the police have conducted a thorough investigation. And, for those of you who really believe in our Constitution, let’s withhold judgment until Boeheim and Fine have had a chance to defend themselves.
It’s the red-blooded, patriotic-American thing to do.”
And, finally, inexplicably: Whitlock writes that the truth has been ”compromised” because, in contrast to the Jerry Sandusky case, “the Fine scandal was first tossed into the media microwave and then the subsequent ‘hot potato’ was handed over to” authorities — a sequence that Whitlock calls “upside-down.”
Does he really have a problem with media outlets breaking a story? If so, Whitlock appears to be attacking the very ideal of investigative reporting — that the media can and should unveil wrongdoing that prosecutors later take up. Perhaps the sports media should just stick to play-by-play analysis and game preview-review duties. That appears to be the Whitlock way.