CNN Steubenville Rape Verdict Coverage: Viewer Outrage Won't Go Away As Petition Against Network Builds Steam

  @christopherzarac.zara@ibtimes.com on March 20 2013 11:45 AM

CNN has yet to address an escalating controversy over its coverage of the Steubenville rape verdict.

A petition on Change.org is calling on the network to apologize for what is being perceived as coverage that was overly sympathetic to the two teenagers convicted Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl in the small Ohio town. The petition was launched by Gabriel Garcia of Knoxville, Tenn., and was rapidly picking up steam on Wednesday morning with more than 236,000 signatures.

Garcia writes: “That CNN decided to paint the tears of the convicted Steubenville rapists in a sympathetic light and say how their lives were ruined -- while completely ignoring the fact that the rape victim's life is the one whose life was ruined by these rapists’ actions -- is disgusting and helps perpetuate a shameful culture in which young people never understand the concept of consent and in which rape victims are blamed and ostracized. Changing that culture must be done brick by brick, and it can start by heaping public shame on this major cable news network and forcing them to admit that they are wrong. Publicly.”

A spokesperson for CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Updates will be posted here if the network responds.

CNN sparked the ire of viewers on Sunday morning when it reported live on a verdict that found 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond -- two star high school football players -- guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl. The reporting in question took place on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where host Candy Crowley, reporter Poppy Harlow and legal analyst Paul Callan were all accused of treating the rapists with sympathy while saying little of the victim. Harlow spoke of the boys’ “promising future," lost because of the verdict, while Callan seemed to lament that they would be labeled as sex offenders by the state of Ohio. Critics said the coverage portrayed the rapists as victims.

CNN is part of the Turner Broadcasting System, a unit of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX). Garcia is seeking 300,000 signatures before the petition is submitted to the network. On Tuesday, Garcia posted an update to Change.org seeking the direct email addresses of CNN personalities Crowley, Harlow and Callan, as well as Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide.

Read the full petition here.  

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