Friday, May 2, 2008

Clemens Thrown a Curve

by Jenna Jackson

To be accused of something that could destroy your life – and the lives of those around you forever – would be a nightmare. Especially when you are a public figure – and there is never a shortage of false or exaggerated accusations flying around. They're easy to make and generally not so easy to refute.

Take this week’s story of baseball great
Roger Clemens (pictured above, left).

DAY ONE - In a story Monday in the
New York Daily News, he was accused of having an affair with country singer Mindy McCready for ten years. At the time, he was married and father to two boys. He’s still married and now has four boys.

And it gets worse. The accusations – from “people with intimate knowledge” – are that the affair started when he was 28 and playing for the
Boston Red Sox and when McReady was a mere 15.

I have no idea if any of this is true – but I cannot imagine how hard this week has been for his wife of so many years, Debbie – and his four sons. And the fact that the article that broke this “news” is based entirely on anonymous sources makes it hard to digest.

I’ve been a
48 Hours producer for ten years. I completely understand the need and importance of anonymous sources. They can give you information and lead you in directions you may not have known about otherwise. They can be extremely valuable.

One of my good friends and fellow bloggers,
Vanessa Leggett, went to federal jail to protect her sources. I’ve always felt this was among the most courageous things I’ve ever witnessed. But Vanessa has dozens and dozens of sources to back up the book she’s writing about River Oaks bookie Bob Angleton – only some of them are anonymous, and she’s checked every one of those out to the hilt.

When it’s a story like this – one that could destroy someone’s life, not to mention his children’s – there should be at least one legitimate, reliable source who will go on the record to tell the story. Especially when it appears on the front page of a New York City newspaper – which will then spread like wildfire around the country to every other paper and evening news show by the end of the day.

DAY TWO - Clemens, through his lawyer, vehemently denies the charges of the affair. He says McCready was a close family friend – but that they were never intimate. But McCready, “tearful but resolute,” according to a Nashville newspaper, said she couldn’t deny anything in the original NY Daily News article. Not a great day for the Rocket. Except that McCready has had a
tumultuous past -- so she might not necessarily be credible, either.

He said/she said stories are the hardest to cover – and the hardest for authorities to investigate. Our
WCI blog is based on crime – and, if this story is true, it should be considered a crime against Clemens' wife and children, all obvious victims. But there could have been real crimes committed, especially if McCready really was only 15 when the alleged affair began. It’s possible that Clemens could be charged with that even now – in Texas, the statute of limitations extends ten years from the age when someone becomes legal, which is age 18.

And, as everyone in the country likely knows at this point, Clemens is dealing right now with other criminal allegations – namely that he used
steroids over the years to enhance his baseball performance and that he lied about it under oath to Congress.

None of us know what -- if anything -- Roger Clemens is guilty of. But I’m inclined to think the bigger “crime” is that of throwing allegations out into the public arena without the proof to back them up. This affair very well might be true. But once the allegations are out there, it doesn’t really matter. The harm to him and – more importantly – to his family is already done. By the time the truth comes out, if it ever does, it will have become secondary to his ruined reputation.

My boyfriend keeps saying “poooooooor Roger” -- I’d counter with poor Roger’s family. And poor any of us who might happen to be in the public eye, making you ripe for allegations, true or not.


Leah said...

I tend to take issue with people who question the credibility of an [alleged] victim because of their "tumultuous" past. Does it ever occur to anyone that maybe Mindy's tumultuous past is due to the abuse she has suffered??? Why would anyone automatically question Mindy's credibility before Roger Clemens?? Why is it so hard to believe that Mindy was [statutorily] raped by Clemens? The fact that she isn't the one who came out with the info makes it seem all the more plausible, at least to me. Is it because he is supposed to be a baseball hero that nobody wants to consider the fact that he is mortal, a human being? Personally, I don't know if he is guilty of any of these charges. But I certainly believe it is possible. And in our society, people are always accused before they are tried. Why should it be any different for the famed??

Leah said...

BTW, this is an excellent post. Maybe the world would be a better place if public accusations were made illegal and that individuals have to bring their allegations before a court, and there be a conviction before anything that would tarnish a person's reputation could be made public. That would put our tabloids out of business, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing either.

Rae said...

"Why is it so hard to believe that Mindy was [statutorily] raped by Clemens?"

Because, as Ms. Jackson pointed out, "when it’s a story like this – one that could destroy someone’s life, not to mention his children’s – [and McCready's, as well] there should be at least one legitimate, reliable source who will go on the record to tell the story."

If there isn't, then don't you have to question the entire legitimacy of the story? Not just question that he did (statutorily) rape McCready, but also question that he didn't.

I also notice that McCready said that she "can't" deny the story. Not that she "won't", but that she "can't". Which makes me wonder if she is actually saying that the allegations are true-or if she is saying that, legally, since she might be called as a witness, she "can't deny" or confirm the allegations to the media. Certainly, her lawyer would have already advised her not to address the issue with the media.

Kathryn Casey said...

Great post, Jenna. Really makes one consider the ripples fanning out from a sensational story based on anonymous sources.

Leah, I don't think Jenna questioned Mindy's credibility before Roger's. My take on the post is that she's saying the backgrounds and past veracity of all those involved have to be considered.