Yesterday, Stuart Taylor spoke to the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Federalist Society about the Duke lacrosse “rape” case. In my view, Taylor is probably the pre-eminent reporter of legal/political matters, an enterprise to which he brings to bear great intelligence, strong knowledge of the law, and stubborn fair-mindedness.
Along with K.C. Johnson, he has written Until Proven Innocent, Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case. Today, he provided an overview of this wretched affair which, in essence, was the product of three rotten forces — a corrupt prosecutor, a rotten academic institution, and the liberal MSM.
The prosecutor, Mike Nifong, brought charges after a woman who was about to be committed to a mental institution claimed she had been raped. In the hours immediately after making this claim, she changed her story often enough that the police officer in attendance was certain no charges would be brought. Nor would they have been, but for the fact that Nifong was facing an election he was almost certain to lose to an opponent he had once fired and who probably would have fired him, thus costing him his pension. Nifong brought the charges because he believed that pursuing a rape case, however baseless, involving a black woman and white defendants would enable him to win enough black votes in Durham to maintain office. As the accuser’s story unraveled, Nifong persisted, suppressing evidence and launching an all-out media assault on the wrongfully accused Duke student-athletes. The suppression kept the case alive; the media assault furthered Nifong’s political aims.
The academic institution, Duke University, contains two sets of villains — (1) the 88 faculty members (about one-fourth of the arts and sciences faculty) who, without regard to the evidence, publicly adjudged as guilty the three accused Duke students, the entire Duke lacrosse team, and white America in general and (2) university president Richard Brodhead, who “enabled” this rabid portion of the faculty and did nothing to defend Duke’s students even as their innocence became clear.
The execrable behavior of the professors is exemplified by one Houston Baker (now at Vanderbilt). The demagogic Baker excoriated the lacrosse team for their “silent whiteness” and their “white, male, athletic privilege.” He called for the “immediate dismissals” by Duke of “the team itself and its players,” to combat the “abhorrent sexual assault, verbal racial violence, and drunken white male privilege loosed amongst us.” After the innocence of the accused players had become clear, Baker received an email from the mother of a member of the lacrosse team (who hadn’t been accused) asking if he would reconsider his earlier statements. Baker responded, by typing “LIES” and indicating that his correspondent was the mother of a “farm animal.” Eventually Baker, a post-modernist if nothing else, fell back to arguing that it didn’t matter whether the rape allegations were true.
But Brodhead’s villainy (the below account of which goes beyond what Taylor said yesterday) arguably exceeds that of Houston Baker and the rest of the gang of 88. While, the faculty members were blinded by hatred and a dopey ideology, Brodhead saw things clearly. His actions, like Nifong’s, were the result of cynicism and opportunism.
At the outset of his tenure as president of Duke, Brodhead had given Duke’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski a new multi-million dollar deal. Brodhead thus incurred the ire of many faculty members who were jealous of Coach K’s deal and the status of athletics on campus that it represented. When the rape charges arose, Brodhead’s options were to appease Duke’s leftist faculty or to grant Duke students the presumption of innocence. The faculty made it clear to Brodhead that he could not do both. At an emergency meeting of the Academic Council on March 30, 2006, Brodhead urged caution and asked faculty to wait for the facts to come out. But the assembled professors, around 10 percent of the arts and sciences faculty, responded with vitriolic attacks against the team.
Knowing that Harvard president Larry Summers had recently lost a faculty no-confidence vote at Harvard, Brodhead made his choice. Shortly after the March 30 meeting with the faculty “lynch mob,” Brodhead cancelled the lacrosse season and appointed a
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