When the Erik Wemple Blog first came across the statement by the victim in the Stanford rape case, we couldn’t stop reading it. It surfaced last Friday on Palo Alto Online and BuzzFeed, where it now has more than 5 million views. It’s a 12-page letter.
The letter comes out of the case against 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner, a former Stanford University swimmer who was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault that took place at Stanford University in January 2015. The victim read her statement in court as Turner was sentenced to six months in county jail, plus three years’ probation — a “gentle” sentence, the victim told BuzzFeed. He’d faced a maximum of 14 years in prison.
As for more details about the case, don’t count on this blog to break them down; read the victim’s statement for yourself. If it doesn’t change your life, question how you’re living.
Now for the media dimension: CNN host Ashleigh Banfield apparently decided that everyone else needed to have the same experience as those of us who couldn’t avert our eyes from the victim’s statement. So she read nearly the whole thing on air. “We will be reading most of it to you this hour. We have had to take out parts that are just too graphic for television and we have had to cut some of it for time as well,” Banfield said at 12:02 p.m.
Thirty-one minutes later (including commercials), Banfield finished reading from the victim’s letter, following it up by interviewing a Stanford University law professor. Then the network went back to politics and the gorilla.
We all love to rip the hollowness, vapidity, triviality and redundancy of cable news. Its three main representatives, after all, provide us so much material to clip and mock. With Banfield’s decision Monday, though, we have a righteous counterpoint: something that matters so much that it’s worth slowing down, scrapping all the panel discussions, not caring whether there’s compelling video to accompany the story, not caring about the ratings — and letting the words of a faceless victim drive the news. More stuff like this, cable news.