If there’s one good thing about the 24/7 cable news world we all now live in, it’s that there is no longer any reason why incredibly important and impactful stories should be ignored by the media. There’s enough time to cover everything with the gravity it deserves, right?
Yeah, I know. If only.
There’s no greater example of just how false that assumption is than what transpired this week. Nearly 100 women came forward in court to speak directly to the man who sexually abused them for decades while he was employed and enabled by the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State University, and cable news hardly gave the Larry Nassar sentencing hearing a second thought.
According to Media Matters, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN spent less than 20 minutes combined last week covering Nassar’s abuse. I’ll say that again: less than 20 minutes combined.
CNN spent 11 minutes and 49 seconds on the Nassar hearing, though three quarters of that coverage came on Friday. Fox News spent three minutes and 49 seconds on the hearing, while MSNBC slightly surpassed that for second place, with four minutes and nine seconds.
Media Matters collected the data between 4:00 a.m. ET on January 15, 2018 — the day before Nassar’s sentencing hearing began — and 9:00 a.m. ET on January 19. That’s 303 combined news hours between the three networks, meaning the worst case of sexual predation in U.S. sports history received just .001 percent of the cable news coverage last week.
That is a staggering lack of attention paid to a monumental story — to put it in perspective, Nassar has three times as many victims as former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, and that news was covered nearly around-the-clock by cable outlets.
In all, 150 women have come forward alleging that Larry Nassar, a former doctor with USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, sexually abused them during a period stretching over two decades, mostly under the guise of administering medical treatment. His victims include aspiring gymnasts, Olympic champions, athletes from throughout the MSU athletics department, family friends, and many girls and women unaffiliated with USAG or MSU who simply sought out Nassar for treatment because, according to his reputation, he was the best of the best.
His abuse was enabled by many people at MSU, USAG, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Twistars Gymnastics Club in Michigan.
Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison on federal pornography charges, and has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sex abuse in two Michigan courts. This week, he is being sentenced on seven counts of first-degree sexual assault in Lansing, Michigan. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has provided the space for any of Nassar’s victims, including those who are only a part of civil suits against him, to face Nassar in the courtroom and read victim impact statements. The testimonies have been livestreamed, and in four days this week, almost 90 women and girls came forward to address Nassar. The hearing will continue next week, as at least 31 more girls and women still want to address Nassar. Sentencing might not happen until Tuesday.
It has been a gut-wrenching display of bravery and despair. The women and girls — and sometimes, in their place, their family members, coaches, or friends — have described the depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts they’ve battled since the abuse. They’ve talked about the ways in which Nassar groomed them. And they’ve talked about the ways those in power at the USOC, MSU, and USAG failed to protect them.
The most viral moment of the week came on Friday afternoon — after the Media Matters study ended, it should be noted — when two-time Olympic champion Aly Raisman gave her statement.
“I didn’t think I would be here today. I was scared and nervous. It wasn’t until I started watching the impact statements from the other brave survivors that I realized I, too, needed to be here,” Raisman said at the start of her testimony. “Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing.”
This morning, the New York Times printed her entire speech in full.
— Josh Crutchmer (@jcrutchmer) January 20, 2018
It’s wonderful that Raisman’s speech, including her absolutely savage takedown of those at MSU, USOC, and USAG, have struck a chord, but there’s no excuse for cable news to have ignored this story for so long.
The Indianapolis Star first started exposing the breadth of Nassar’s abuse back in September 2016. This is a story about institutions that put winning over safety; adults that were blinded by loyalty and friendship; and girls and women who weren’t believed by parents, coaches, or administrators.
It’s a story that is doomed to be repeated if we don’t learn from the mistakes by all of those in charge. The brave and bold victims of Nassar are telling us all we need to know, we just have to tune in and listen. And in order to do that, cable news needs to do its job and report it.