Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why Are KC Johnson & Halkides Hyping The Charlie’s Hoax?

On May 24 of this year I said in KC Johnson Now:

On [Apr. 1, 2006] the N&O published under [reporters] Anne Blythe’s and Jane Stancill’s bylines a story which began:
A woman who wrote about seeing lacrosse players slamming down shots of alcohol and shouting "Duke Lacrosse" at a bar two days after they submitted DNA samples in a rape case said Friday that she is no longer welcome in the popular watering hole and has been kicked off the bar's softball team.

The reaction is one more example of flaring tensions from the investigation into whether a woman was raped at a Duke University lacrosse team party. …
I went on to say:
By the time Blythe and Stancill wrote that story, days had passed since the woman first peddled it in a Chronicle op-ed in which she said it “pained” her to write the op-ed because the lacrosse players were her “best friends.”

No one in the bar [, Charlie’s,] at the time of the alleged shot slammings and shouts has ever substantiated her charges and Blythe and Stancill offered no substantiation in their story.

People who were at the bar at the time in question and who have spoken publicly have said what the woman claimed was false; and that's why she was barred from the bar and thrown off the softball team.

Blythe & Stancill reported nothing from witnesses who denied what the woman said.

The two reporters & the N&O just went with a smear story they knew would add to the community’s “flaring tensions.”
I thought when I published KC Johnson Now that the Charlie’s Shot Slamming hoax was “a dead one.”

After all, it had been so quickly and fully discredited back in March 2006 that not even Mike Nifong had used it against the lacrosse players.

But no matter.

Just a few hours after I posted
KC Johnson Now, KC himself commented on the post thread at 8:57 PM:
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.

The reason that I never critiqued the article in DIW or
UPI was [to avoid doing a post] on an article that could have been correct. (bolds added)
If you read further down the thread you’ll see where I repeatedly show what KC was doing was, IMO, giving life to a vicious hoax the was all but dead until he said he had found two witnesses who “corroborated in no uncertain terms.”

You’ll also see on that thread this from another commenter who said in part :
… There was absolutely no scene of lacrosse players at "Charlies" yelling "Duke lacrosse" after the false allegations.

My daughter was actually at the bar that night with Steph Sparks-Bob Exstrand's sister in law-and 2 lacrosse players-one of whom is my son.(bold added) …
I hoped KC would think about what S. Fogerty had said and that he might stop hyping what sensible people recognize was a hoax.

That was on May 25.

From that date until yesterday, despite a number of provocations on- and offline, I published nothing about KC Johnson’s “witnesses” who, if they’ve given him the same or a very similar account of what Hopman said, are false witnesses, as KC must surely know.

"False witness" is our term for a person who’s given witness that contradicts irrefutable facts or the truth of a situation. The false witness doesn’t have to be perjuring; he or she can be merely deluded

On July 6 UNC-Wilmigton professor Chris Halkides, a frequent commenter at KC’s DIW blog, returned to his own blog from what he said was “a hiatus.”

Halkides chose to reopen his blog with a post titled “John in Carolina’a Post, ‘KC Johnson Now.'” Halkides said:
... I will examine two points that JinC raised, that KC Johnson banned Joan Foster and that Professor Johnson was untruthful about his sources that confirmed a Raleigh News and Observer (N&O) story from 1 April 2006. I will treat the second, more serious matter first.

On July 8 KC Johnson posted praising Halkides post and linking to it

Beyond pointing out in response to professor Halkides that expressing skepticism about what someome says is not the same as saying they are lying, I said nothing the Charlie's hoax and KC's false "witnesses" after Halkides' and Johnson's published their posts until yesterday when I posted
Hopman's Charlie's Shot Slamming Hoax.

I waited until yesterday
before posting in order to see if what's sometimes termed "the corrective power of the blogosphere" would show itself on Halkides' thread and at DIW.

There's been some of that, but there's also been a lot cheering for what Haldides and Johnson are doing along with a lot of distortion - some no doubt deliberate - of what I've said and posted.

I decided yesterday for reasons you can easily guess at and which I'll soon discuss in detail, that the time had come to set the record straight on the Charlie's Hoax and KC Johnson's false "witnesses."

I also hope many of you will consider and discuss why KC brought up his false "witnesses" in the first place; and why he and Halkides decided to promulgate the falsehood that the Charlie's events as described be Jill Hopman might really have happened.

I have the same feeling typing this now as I had when I first challenged the N&O for promulgating what the paper knew was the "wall of solidarity" falsehood which almost immediately morphed into the "wall of solidarity" falsehood.

I'm eager to hear what you think.


Anonymous said...

"There was absolutely no scene of lacrosse players at Charlie's yelling 'Duke Lacrosse' after the false allegations. My daughter was actually at the bar with Steph Sparks-Bob Extrands sister-in-law-and two lacrosse players-one of whom is my son." That pretty much does it for me! Steve in New Mexico

sceptical said...


I am confused. Weren't you the one who resurrected the "Charlie's" story in your "KC Johnson Now" attack?

The way I understood it, you were criticizing KC for going easy on the N&O and you used the "Charlie's" episode as an example.

Then KC explained why he had left out the "Charlie's" incident from UPI-- because he had different stories from different sources.

I am not sure why you are criticizing KC for "hyping" the "Charlie's" incident when you were the one who brought it back.

IMO KC has just been explaining what happened, from his point of view, in response to your original attack.

My personal opinion is that the bar story is grossly exaggerated.

I cannot judge KC's sources, but I respect confidentiality, which is essential to journalism. Personally, some of my most important posts have benefited from people telling me information off the record. I cannot fault KC for this.

Why can't we disagree about facts or interpretation without getting personal?


Anonymous said...


In order to believe Jill Hopman, one would need to believe that Charlie's bar continued to serve the athletes so much liquor that they were falling down drunk, while in the presence of four police officers, three reporters and one news photographer.


I think not.

Anonymous said...


It's one thing to refer to the Charlie's hoax and say there's never been anyone other then Hopman who's publicly vouched for the story.

John did that.

It's quite another thing to post on the Internet and tell people you have two witnesses who corroborated Hopman's story "in no uncertain terms."

KC Johnson did that.

John only mentions a story that had been in a newspaper and that most of us knew about; KC says he has two corroborating witnesses.

But you blame John.

You're right; you are confused.

When you get unconfused, you should apologize to John

Duke Alum

sceptical said...

To Duke Alum:

What was wrong with KC Johnson explaining that he had two witnesses corroborate Hopman's story in the context of J in C raising questions about the incident?

While I don't always agree with Prof. Johnson, I take him at his word that he had two such witnesses.

I don't know if the witnesses were credible (I doubt it), but why would KC make such a claim if no such witnesses existed?

Whatever his faults, Johnson did extensive research for UPI (see his source notes) and his DIW posts. He is not an armchair sleuth.

I have great respect for John in Carolina, but I have to disagree with his characterization that KC Johnson hyped the "Charlie's" episode. In my opinion, it is the opposite.


inmyhumbleopinion said...

Steve in New Mexico said..

"There was absolutely no scene of lacrosse players at Charlie's yelling 'Duke Lacrosse' after the false allegations. My daughter was actually at the bar with Steph Sparks-Bob Extrands sister-in-law-and two lacrosse players-one of whom is my son." That pretty much does it for me!

I assume, Sally Fogarty is relating the scene at Charlie's as was told to her by her son, her daughter, Ms. Sparks, or her son's teammate, or a combination of these four eyewitnesses. Do any of Ms. Fogarty's eyewitnesses know Ms. Hopman? If so, were they at Charlie's the entire time Ms. Hopman was at Charlie's? We don't have enough information about Sally Fogarty's version of the event (or non-event) for it to be useful in discrediting Ms. Hopman's version.

halides1 said...

Steve in New Mexico,

Here is what Newsweek said, as quoted by OneSpook: "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."

Were your son or daughter sources for the Newsweek article? Was the Newsweek description of a "regretful toast" what they remembered?


Anonymous said...

Great post!

Keep it up.

It's about time someone had the guts to expose KC.

KC Johnson said...

This is the oddest post I have read in the long line of quixotic posts demonizing those who do not share the blogger whose publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina's overwhelmingly negative appraisal of the N&O’s overall role in the case.

As those who have either read UPI or followed DIW know, I never mentioned the Charlie's incident or the article in question. I have only responded to unfounded allegations on the point from the blogger whose publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina.

I have already noted his move into outright factual inaccuracies on matters substantial (the alleged banning of infrequent DIW commenter Joan Foster, the alleged insertion of something “new” into an April post) to minor (the claim that I “sent” him an “email”). These errors have either remained uncorrected or acknowledged in an ungenerous fashion.

I’ve said on a number of occasions that bloggers have a thinner margin of error than does the MSM, because we don’t have a legacy of institutional credibility to fall back on. So a pattern of errors can essentially destroy the credibility of a blog—as, I fear, we have seen at this blog over the past few months.

Take the following item from his previous post, rife with errors or unsupported allegations: “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.”

“Hundreds” of members of the media were in Durham? The blogger whose publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina doesn’t specify, but “hundreds” presumes at least 200. Really? Take the three local papers (N&O, H-S, Chron.) and the four local TV stations. Generously, in late March 2006, they might have had 35 reporters on the case. Add to that five cable networks (Fox, MSNBC, CNN, HLN, and CourtTV), the NYT, the AP, the LAT, USA Today, and Newsweek, all of which had a reporter or at most two reporters in Durham. Perhaps 20 total reporters there? Add in, to be on the high side, 10 reporters from other media sources who occasionally sent in a reporter for a story. That’s 65, total—a lot of reporters, but not 200 or more. So where are the other 135+ reporters of which the blogger whose publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina wrote?

"Hundreds of members of media . . . scrambled hard to confirm Hopman’s story." Really? Of the list above, probably 12-15 reporters came from the N&O and the Chron—there's no evidence they were even continuing to look into what was a fairly minor story in the overall frame of things. So we’re now down to at most 50 reporters. How does the blogger whose publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina know that they “scrambled hard to confirm Hopman’s story.” Did he ask them? Did they say so on the record in another venue? This is nothing more than speculation on his part. It might be accurate—but it’s presented in the post as fact, not speculation.

"Hundreds of members of media . . . soon concluded it was a hoax.” This is an extraordinary allegation, keeping in mind that “hoax” suggests the other reporters not only looked into the story but positively disproved it. The blogger whose publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina is reporting that dozens of reporters disproved the N&O article—but then, for reason or reasons unknown, their uncovering of this hoax wasn’t made public. Note that the post doesn’t even link to one article or TV report in support of its claims that other reporters “concluded it was a hoax.” Again, this is nothing more than speculation (and, in this case, what appears to be wholly unfounded speculation) on the part of the blogger whose publishes under the pseudonym of John-in-Carolina. Yet it’s presented in the post as fact, not speculation.

Bloggers willing to repeatedly publish speculation or errors as fact quickly lose their credibility.