I almost never agree with Clay Travis, but his latest is, again, spot on:
We have entered into a bizarre world where people choose to believe or disbelieve stories not based on the actual facts involved in a case, but based on whether those stories confirm their already existing world views.
That’s the only possible reason I can come up with for how a blatantly untrue and factually unsupportable allegation that is 13 years old can suddenly become the most read and discussed story in the world of sports. I have been totally baffled how the media has responded to Saturday’s “report” from the New York Daily News so here is my attempt to succinctly explain why this entire story is total bullshit.
Duke Lacrosse and the University of Virginia frat rape “chronicled” by Rolling Stone, move over, Peyton Manning has just joined your company as one of the three most absurdly false stories that gained national attention in recent history.
Travis is correct when he says that the sports media’s response to this story has been “baffling.” As I pointed out Monday, Jamie Naughright’s details of Peyton Manning’s locker room “mooning” incident in 1996 changed dramatically in the seven years between her sexual harassment lawsuit against the University of Tennessee and her defamation lawsuit against Manning in 2003.
And no one is mentioning that.
Except Travis. He’s employed by Fox Sports these days, so I supposed he’s mainstream. But he’s the exception to the rule.
By and large, the mainstream media’s response has been to regurgitate Naughright’s 2003 allegations, which were first reported by USA Today and others in 2003 and were rehashed by New York Daily News hack man Shaun King last week.
It was in that defamation lawsuit, which Naughright filed in Florida after Manning’s book vaguely rehashed the incident, that her attorney wrote for the first time that the “mooning” might have been something more than a mooning. In the filing, he wrote that the incident “was not merely ‘mooning’, but was of such an egregious nature as to be beyond the pale. In truth and fact, Peyton Manning’s actual conduct was of such a gross, crude, and indecent nature that it would have offended even the most callous individual.”
Later, when she was being deposed for that lawsuit, Naughright — for the first time — gave a graphic portrayal of what she said happened to her, saying Manning placed his “naked butt and rectum” on her face.
The attorney asked, ‘It was not just his behind, his rear end, that was on your face, but his genitalia was on your face?” And Naughright responded, “That’s correct. It was the gluteus maximus, the rectum, the testicles, and the area in between the testicles. And all that was on my face when I pushed him up and off.”
That is the version that is circulating the internet today, leading many to declare that they’ve lost all respect for Manning (and some to suggest he should retire from the NFL to salvage his reputation), and others to say he should have to “pay” for what happened.
But there’s a major problem with what Naughright said in 2003.
She first reported the incident in 1996 — and it was nothing like what she reported in 2003.
In an affidavit she filed as part of her 1996 sexual harassment lawsuit against the University of Tennessee, Naughright explained it like this: “He pulled his pants down and exposed himself to me as I was bent over examining his foot after asking me personal questions. I reported this to my supervisor, who referred to it as ‘merely a prank,’ and no action was taken in regard to this until after I formally complained.”
She claimed that Manning asked her personal questions, “such as who she ‘hung out with,’ and what she did on weekends,” before the incident. After she looked up to see his naked butt, she said, she pushed him off and said, “You’re an ass.”
Manning corroborated all of that, with one exception: he claimed that he was mooning a fellow athlete who was in the room. That witness, track athlete Malcolm Saxon, contended in 2003 that he was not the target of the “mooning,” in a letter he wrote to Peyton Manning after Naughright’s lawsuit was filed and after speaking to both Naughright and her attorney. However, he has never corroborated Naughright’s latter description of what happened. In fact, in his letter to Manning he says, “I still don’t know why you dropped your drawers. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe not. But it was definitely inappropriate.”
That seems to corroborate Manning’s claim — and Naughright’s original claim — that he simply dropped his pants and exposed his naked butt to her.
No one has suggested that Manning mooning Naughright would not have been inappropriate. But it’s a far cry from the sexual assault that Naughright would later claim happened.
This is a big deal. In fact, it calls the credibility of just about everything that was in the 2003 lawsuit into question. The fact that the mainstream media isn’t expanding on it — in most cases, aren’t even mentioning that there are major discrepancies in Naughright’s two descriptions of what happened — is completely mind-numbing.
In 1996, the Manning “mooning” incident was among 33 allegations Naughright made against the University of Tennessee. It was a laundry list of complaints, which eventually earned Naughright $300,000 in a settlement before the matter could go to trial.
It was that settlement which resulted in the non-disclosure agreement that Naughright claims Manning violated when he wrote the book in 2001. That has earned Manning more criticism from those who say that he willfully violated a court order to humiliate Naughright, who he did not mention by name in the book. Travis, who is an attorney, says he doesn’t think Manning violated the nondisclosure agreement at all — a point of contention I have also made, but I don’t have a law degree.
In any event, Naughright’s 1996 lawsuit included a lot of items so vague that they resulted in public scorn at the time. She accused Phillip Fulmer of sexual harassment, saying that he asked her if she liked “big men.” She accused UT historian Gus Manning — widely considered the most gentle soul affiliated with the UT athletics program — of sexual harassment. She even included a complaint of UT players making crude comments about OJ Simpson’s slain ex-wife, Nicole Brown, in her presence.
Why, then, would she not have mentioned in 1996 that Manning forced his naked butt and testicles onto her face? Amid her laundry list of almost three dozen complaints, Manning was by far the most prolific target. He was considered a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. If her goal was to get money or to expose a pattern of sexual harassment, clearly she would have benefited from saying that Manning forced his naked rear-end onto her face rather than saying he simply “pulled his pants down and exposed himself to me.”
But she didn’t say that — not for seven more years, when she filed a lawsuit that an attorney completely unrelated to the case would later say was an effort that was baseless and “fueled” by her “relentless search for revenge” against Manning.
These things are worth reporting, don’t you think? So where are you at, ESPN? Deadspin? USA Today? So far, only Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports have dared question the line of one-sided facts we’re being presented. And Clay Travis, of course, who is apparently willing to fight a fight that none others will take up.