Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hopman’s Charlie’s Shot Slamming Hoax

March 28, 2006 was a very difficult day for the members of Duke University’s Men’s lacrosse team and their families. And for the players themselves it was also a dangerous day.

Since March 24 the Raleigh News & Observer had been running a series of biased, racially inflammatory and, in some instances, fraudulent stories casting the players as a bunch of drunken, out-of-control rich white boys, three of whom had beaten, strangled and gang-raped a frightened young black mother while their teammates stood by and did nothing.

The N&O’s March 28 front page carried a story in which Mike Nifong, then DA, called the players “hooligans.”

The front page also contained “the priors” story about previous misdemeanor charges such as underage drinking and public urination brought against 16 of the players, all of whom the N&O named, including one who’d been found innocent of the charge against him.

The N&O’s editorial that day called the accuser “the victim.” It praised her “courage” in coming forward to make her charges. The editorial also demanded suspension of the team’s season until the case was resolved.

On that same March 28 Duke’s student newspaper,
The Chronicle, published a guest op-ed, “Acute embarrassment,” in which Jill Hopman, a first-year law student at UNC-Chapel Hill and an ’05 Duke grad, claimed that on the preceding Saturday, March 25, the day the N&O ran its now discredited story about what it said was a night ending in “sexual violence,” about 20 Duke lacrosse players entered Charlie’s Pub in Durham and:

“ordered round after round of shots, at times slamming the glasses down on tables and cheering "Duke Lacrosse!" At this point, the bar started buzzing. Comments were flying all over from "How does Duke not have these guys under lockdown?" to "Do they realize what unremorseful drunk snobs they look like?" to "I hate Duke students and this is exactly why." . . .
By March 28 the Duke lacrosse story had drawn national and international attention. Hundreds of members of media were in Durham covering it. They scrambled hard to confirm Hopman’s story but soon concluded it was a hoax.

Hopman’s allegations were so quickly and fully discredited that not even Mike Nifong or the Durham Police investigators working the case used it when trashing the players.

On May 24 of this year I said in the post
KC Johnson Now:
…"no one in the bar at the time of the alleged shot slammings and shouts has ever substantiated her charges and [N&O reporters] Blythe and Stancill offered no substantiation in their story."…
Some hours later KC Johnson responded on the post thread at 8:57 PM:
That statement actually is untrue. I have spoken to four other people who were in the bar that evening. Two corroborated--in no uncertain terms--the story in Blythe and Stancill's article. Two strongly dissented from it. (bold added)

The reason that I never critiqued the article in DIW or
UPI was not because of a partiality to the N&O but because I had no clear grounds for attacking the article. My general approach, given that there were so many articles worth criticizing in the case, was not to do posts on an article that could have been correct.(bold added) …
Folks, here’s part of Hopman’s op-ed:
This past Saturday night, days after the lacrosse story appeared in newspapers, I was at Charlie's having a drink with my local softball team when about 20 lacrosse players arrived.

Some were my close friends at Duke. Some are absolutely amazing athletes that shouldn't be tainted by the unfortunate and extremely sad events of this month. Most should not be guilty by association.

Nevertheless, they ordered round after round of shots, at times slamming the glasses down on tables and cheering "Duke Lacrosse!" At this point, the bar started buzzing. Comments were flying all over from "How does Duke not have these guys under lockdown?" to "Do they realize what unremorseful drunk snobs they look like?" to "I hate Duke students and this is exactly why."

One of the men on my team, a cop, leaned over to me and said, "See A, B and C? They are police officers."

Ten minutes later, one of the other guys on my team, a photographer for a Raleigh newspaper, leaned over and said, "See X,Y and Z? They are reporters."

The players had no idea who was intensely analyzing them, nor did they really seem to care. While I drank a Corona, watching them get plastered and stumbling, yelling about Duke lacrosse, the rest of the bar looked on with derision and repulsion.

Needless to say, it was hard to stomach how their actions conveyed a sense that the severity of the situation is lost on them. Regardless of guilt, there is a degree of gravity that is not met by simply closing facebook profiles to the public. This is not about hazing or underage drinking or even cheating. And this cannot be contained inside the proverbial Duke bubble or under a blanket of silence. …
Folks, in any of you agree with KC Johnson that what Hopman alleged "could have been correct," how do you explain the fact that none of the hundreds of media then in Durham who tried to confirm Hopman's allegations could find any corroborating witnesses?

How come they couldn’t find any corroborating witnesses after Hopman alleged a cop who played on her softball team pointed out three others in Charlie's he told her were also cops?

Hopman alleged a press photographer friend pointed out three members of the press who witnessed the alleged shot slamming, shouting and the other patrons' reactions of disgust and openly expressed criticism.

If that was actually the case, why didn’t any of those press members report what they witnessed? Why didn’t their fellow members of media interview them as corroborating witnesses?

Folks, you can’t really substantiate or corroborate something that didn’t happen, can you?

Sure, a second witness may agree in no uncertain terms with what the first witness said.

But if the first witness’ statements are false, then the agreeing second witness is also a false witness.

I don’t find it difficult to believe KC Johnson found two people who said they were in Chalie’s Pub the night of March 25, 2006 and witnessed the events Hopman described.

But I find it both hard to believe and very sad that KC Johnson now gives any credence to people parroting the Charlie’s Shot Slamming hoax or to the hoax itself.


14 comments:

sceptical said...

John,

I agree that there is no convincing evidence that the Charlie's bar episode happened as described by Hopman.

But it is difficult to debate the question without getting caught up in the protection of confidential sources. We cannot judge the veracity of KC Johnson's two sources whom he claims corroborate the story because he (properly) does not identify them.

My hunch is that there might have been athletes that day at Charlies (there usually are), but they were not necessarily from the lacrosse team and their behavior was exxagerated by Hopman.

sceptical

Anonymous said...

John:

"I have spoken to four other people who were in the bar that evening. Two corroborated--in no uncertain terms--the story in Blythe and Stancill's article. Two strongly dissented from it. (bold added)"

I saw this statement when it was first posted. It puzzled me then. It puzzles me now.

There was no reason for KC to ever make this statement. It had no traceable credibility.

What was the point?

Ken
Dallas

Anonymous said...

John and Ken,

KC's not going to be happy with you guys.

You're not showing proper respect.

Duke '85

Anonymous said...

KC hasn't provided any evidence the Charlie's incident may have happened except for his "secret" witnesses he and his Wonderlanders can't name.

Now why doesn't that surprise me?

I stopped reading him after he kept saying again and again how great the N&O's coverage was.

joan foster said...

Can you imagine KC allowing one of his Blog targets to rely on unknown "witnesses" to prop up a story as preposterous as Hopman's?
"Oh, we have to keep an open mind on Lubiano's story. She has two secret witnesses.No she can't tell us. NO criticism in the comments please."

In my opinion, that story is just that ...preposterous.

Sceptical, Hopman says:

"This past Saturday night, days after the lacrosse story appeared in newspapers, I was at Charlie's having a drink with my local softball team when about 20 lacrosse players arrived.

Some were my close friends at Duke. Some are absolutely amazing athletes that shouldn't be tainted by the unfortunate and extremely sad events of this month."

I read this to say of those 20 lacrosse players, "SOME" were her "close friends." "SOME" are "amazing athletes" which indicates to me if she knows their level of prowess,she knows what sport they play. Therefore, she asserts that she knows quite a few of these twenty young men. So I do not believe this can be an innocent mistake of thinking one group of athletes is another.

Furthermore, remembering the endless smear coverage, how would this perfect story be missed? What an ideal item to include in the "Team Swaggered for Years" story if there were reporters and police who witnessed this. Wouldn't those reporters be running with this scoop? Everything from stories about Finnerty's wealth, public urination, the homophobic D.C. "attack", million dollar bribes, even...Crystal's baby... was dredged up and used. But, in the frenzy of those days, a story like this on the Editorial page of Duke's newspaper....with police and media witnesses...would not be used?

Really?

And, putting aside the police and media witnesses, if KC has two credible witnesses of his own, surely they would have been credible and available to the N&O, the MSM as well.

But most importantly, if you can't talk about something,have to keep it secret... you really don't get to use it to shoot down another's argument or MAKE YOUR POINT.

Even Dan Rather couldn't pull that off.

Another odd thing is KC's elevation of Ruth Sheehan to some kind of hero status. Here is a woman who had at her disposal a well read column in the local newspaper at Ground Zero for this case.THINK of what she might have done for these kids with that column! Instead...she convicted these kids on an allegation and no evidence. She demanded Pressler's job. An attorney's wife, she watched an egregious case of witness intimidation (Elmo) and just blew it off as a waste of time "with the meter running." Is that ALL she saw that day? My, she has a high tolerance for Durham's way of prosecuting the innocent.

Yes, she finally called for Nifong to hand over the case, but so what? Who needed her then...with 60 minutes and the MSM turning? Her later columns were tepid compared to her fire at first.Name one piece she wrote equal in fire to "You Know You Know"...in which she advocated the innocence of these kids?

But KC does not just give her a pass,he bestows almost hero status. Oh well. Maybe he has secret witnesses to some still undisclosed great Sheehan contribution we missed.

halides1 said...

I agree with sceptical; it is unlikely that Hopman accurately reported the behavior of the athletes in the bar that evening. KC Johnson only disclosed that he had confidential sources in response to the question of why he did not attack the story. Ken implied he was puzzled about this, but I don’t understand why. Joan Foster wondered why the witnesses were not available to the N&O or the MSM. That is a good question, for the N&O and the MSM. Maybe they didn’t dig as deeply as they should have.

Chris

joan foster said...

Chris, it was an editorial in the Duke newspaper at the height of the public rage and media interest. The Chronicle...the media outlet with probably the highest ratio of Potbanger readers. No one saw it or used it?

This story, if true, was gold.

The reporters in the Bar did not use it? For whom were they reporting...the Farmers Almanac?

But more importantly, I ask again, has it been KC's habit to concede an argument to anyone else...when that argument is based on "secret sources?"

One Spook said...

With due respect to all of you, I'll offer another view.

John presents no evidence, just rampant speculation with no facts, no legwork, no nothing --- just theory, and a criticism of Johnson without a scintilla of evidence to the contrary.

Let's look at this in the abstract: A first-year law student decides out of the blue to make up a story completely out of whole cloth about something that happened in a bar witnessed, by her own admission, by quite a few people, including some that she describes as "close friends."

So, if she makes up a completely untrue story, just how difficult would it be for her cop friend or her photographer friend, or others to call her up, after reading the Op-Ed and say, "Why in the hell did you do that? None of that ever happened and you know damn well it didn't!" This woman is not stupid and I doubt that she would fabricate a story that quite a few others could easily discredit and thus risk losing all of her friends.

I honestly think she was kicked off of her team simply because she wrote the opinion piece in the first place; not because it wasn't true albeit, perhaps embellished. People have a tendency to prefer to let behavior that happens in bars, stay in bars unless it is totally criminal in nature. And most people of normal intelligence and sound mind would not make up such a story that would be immediately recognized by their friends who witnessed it as a lie. And what on earth would motivate Hopman to completely fabricate a story?

Fabricating a story where one is alone with a guy on a beach at night (See: The Frimpong case), or in a bedroom alone (See: Any number of rape cases) with no one around, is entirely another matter. Mangum made up a fantasy story (that changed every time she told it) also witnessed by many others, but she is not a woman of sound mind by any stretch of the imagination.

But, let's consider John's "theory" for a moment.

Where are the names and statements from the "press members" he contends witnessed the events? John has done no legwork and has absolutely no evidence to the contrary of KC's information that was gleaned from actually talking to folks who were there.

Where are the "hundreds of media then in Durham who tried to confirm Hopman's allegations"? Who are they, where are they, and why did not a single one of them write a report that disavows, with evidence, what was written in Newsweek and in the Hopman's opinion piece? And why didn't John ask any of those "hundreds" when the issue was ripe? Why doesn't he ask someone now?

The discussion here isn't, "Folks, in [sic] any of you agree with KC Johnson..." the discussion here is:

Why does John not have a single witness and statement that confirms his theory from even one of the "hundreds" he claimed witnessed a hoax?

Why doesn't John have a statement from any one of Hopman's "close friends" who would know she was lying?

Why doesn't John have anything concrete apart from a theory?

Please.

The Newsweek report was actually kind in saying this in its report of the incident, "(A source close to the families who did not wish to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter said there were three players in the bar and they made a single, regretful toast to the team, whose season is on hold for now.)” [My emphasis] Obviously the Newsweek reporter at least talked to someone who had an account of the events, whether they were present or not. Actually, that version sounds a lot like something that would come from a defense attorney --- there's a "theory" for those of you who really crave theories!

This discussion isn't about whether anyone "agrees" with KC Johnson or agrees with John. This discussion should rightly be about this:

Where's the evidence to support John's theory?

One Spook

Anonymous said...

Halides1:

"Ken implied he was puzzled about this, but I don’t understand why."

Simple. The actual events could have been verified easily. The bartenders that night would have had accurate information. There's no way the Chronicle (or any other reporter) would have missed this opportunity. The lack of a follow up expose suggests the story was a fabrication.

Unless he actually knew someone there, I don't see the point in KC presenting highly suspect corroborating hearsay from 1000 miles away.

It appears he was caught up in the excitement.

Ken
Dallas

KC Johnson said...

Ken expresses puzzlement as to my response to this issue. I will attempt to explain it for him.

In the course of researching UPI, I originally planned that there would be a paragraph citing this article as an example of poor reporting by the MSM. I had heard already from a confidential source who said they were at the bar that evening and nothing of the type Hopman alleged had occurred.

But--unlike those who simply attack people without sending an email to verify the allegations first--I felt I had an obligation to, at the very least, email Hopman to see if she still supported her story. (The blogger who publishes under the pseudonym John-in-Carolina claims that "hundreds of members of media . . . scrambled hard to confirm Hopman’s story but soon concluded it was a hoax." How did he reach this conclusion? Has he interviewed members of the MSM to ask them? Has any member of the MSM ever published a story saying the article was a "hoax," or contending anything of the sort? As we all know, the blogger known as John-in-Carolina would never publish a statement unless he was absolutely sure of its factual accuracy, so I assume he based his statement on "hundreds" of confidential interviews.)

And, more important, if he considers this issue of such significance, why didn't he email Hopman to see if she would verify?

In any event, I did email Hopman. She stood by her story. She gave me the names of two people she said were at the bar that evening, who would confirm her story. They did.

That left me with a quandary for the book. I couldn't plausibly claim that the article was a hoax, since the original source stood by it, as did corroborating sources. I couldn't even plausibly claim that the article was bad journalism, since my confidential source was in a position in which they, at the time of the article, couldn't speak on or off the record to reporters. And, perhaps most important, I had dozens of examples of incontrovertibly flawed articles from the Times, the H-S, and, during the Khanna period, the N&O.

So, as those of you who read UPI know, the book neither mentions the Charlie's incident (because my perspective on what did or did not occur is precisely sceptical's, so I wasn't about to present the event as if it surely happened), nor mentions the article as an example of bad journalism, since, in the context of what occurred in the MSM in the case, the article was not an appropriate example.

There, I presumed, the matter rested, until the blogger who publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina published his attack piece a few months back.

As I said at the time, I would have been happy to have explained all of this to the blogger who publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina had he emailed me to ask me about it before publishing his post. But, of course, the blogger who publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina doesn't follow that procedure.

Locomotive Breath said...

Hopman and the two unnamed others (like-minded friends sharing her table I'll bet) were probably reflexive rape believers who thought that the Duke lacrosse team appearing in public under any circumstances was inappropriate. She was assuming a rape had occurred. The team members, upon their own personal knowledge, knew a rape had not occurred and they were probably assuming that the whole thing would be over in a week or two. Why should innocent men go into hiding?

Their only mistake was underestimating the mendacity of Mike Nifong and Tara Levicy. Their behavior was not abnormal given the facts they knew. That's what goes on in college bars and Hopman was willing to exagerate. Maybe Hopman doesn't go to rowdy college bars that much. She may have been offended by their behavior even without a false rape claim having been made. And until someone else, not a friend of hers, publicly corroborates her story, she's in the same category as Nifong and Levicy - making claims without proof.

Has any member of the MSM ever published a story saying the article was a "hoax," or contending anything of the sort?

Given that the media has never printed a retraction or apology for ANY of the demonstrably false stories they published, do you really think they'd have published one in this case? Given that it was an Op-Ed, they feel no oblication to correct it anyway as the blame properly falls on Hopman.

Conversely, if they had been interested enough to investigate, and given the fact they were obviously operating from an agenda to publish every negative tidbit of information they could find about the lacrosse team, the fact that there was no news story followup is telling. I don't know if they tried to corroborate the story or not, but if they had tried and been able to it WOULD have been in the news.

the blogger who publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina

Four times no less.

KC continues to not understand the frenzy of hate created locally by the media. If you'd been local and seen the hysteria whipped up by the media and the N&O in particular, and you had been questioning whether the rape claim was true, you might have been posting anonymously too. I myself had numerous face-to-face run ins with "friends" vociferously insisting that the whole team was a bunch of rapists. Many of these people still insist that "something happened". Instead KC was safely posting from New York. If you report what your sources tell you and keep their confidentiality, I can't see how you can criticize someone else for wanting to keep his identity confidential as well.

Those on the front lines spend a more time in foxholes than those in the rear echelon.

KC Johnson said...

To L.B.:

It is my understanding that the blogger whose publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina began doing so well before the lacrosse case began. So whatever motivated him from shielding his identity, it wasn’t a concern with what I agree was the horrific atmosphere in Durham in March and April of 2006. I also agree—and have stated repeatedly—that the early articles (almost all of them under Samiha Khanna’s byline) and the two early Ruth Sheehan op-eds (for which she later apologized) of the N&O helped contribute to this atmosphere. I, of course, do not believe that an evaluation of the N&O’s role in the case essentially needs to stop sometime in mid-April 2006, so as to avoid the overwhelming majority of good articles that the N&O produced. I am comfortable, on this issue, standing with the attorneys for the falsely accused players rather than the blogger whose publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina.

Anonymous said...

'Hopman and the two unnamed others (like-minded friends sharing her table I'll bet) were probably reflexive rape believers...'

Wow.

Locomotive Breath said...

KC-

OK - fair point. But I would say in reply that even before this whole mess Durham is a difficult place to be a conservative blogger so John's caution in posting anonymously from the beginning was merited. I think you'd agree that continuing to post anonymously after March 2006 was even more critical.

As far as the N&O, I don't think anything they did really made up for their early coverage. Whether it's Bill Clinton, Mike Nifong, John Edwards or Mike Easley, they have a long history of covering for Dem miscreants as long as they can until the point that the truth is obvious to everyone. Only after those people had lost any political viability did they report and then they wanted credit for great investigative reporting.