Ethics Sports - Laurie Fine to Sue ESPN for Libel over 2011 Reports

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See above a screenshot of the lawsuit. (Credit: USATODAY,screenshot)

ESPN and the Syracuse Post-Standard reported last year that former Syracuse University ball-boy Bobby Davis accused Bernie Fine of molestation.  As we wrote at the time, there were ethical questions about the two outlets’ decisions against reporting the accusations when they first learned of them in 2002 and 2003.

The lawsuit claims that ESPN “falsely” claimed she was

  • “Creating a space in which children could be sexually molested in secret;
  • “Witnessing her husband sexually molest children, but not doing anything to
  • stop it;
  • “Knowingly permitting the sexual molestation of children in her home;
  • “Telling Robert Davis that she knew her husband was sexually molesting him;
  • “Having adulterous sex with Robert Davis while he was still in high school;
  • “Betraying Robert Davis’ trust by not protecting him from sexual molestation;
  • “Having adulterous and dysfunctional sexual relationships with Syracuse basketball team players over the course of many years.”

Fine also claims ESPN edited a tape of a 2002 phone call between Fine and Davis and that Davis’ claims are “false accusations.”  Fox Sports reported  that “Davis, 40, reportedly first approached ESPN in 2003 with the abuse allegations, but it was not until after he presented the network with a recorded phone conversation with Laurie Fine in the wake of the Sandusky scandal that the network decided to air the report.”

Fine’s lawsuit called the tape “admittedly doctored, substantially inaudible, and entirely speculative” as well as “totally unsupportive of [ESPN’s] eventual coverage of Davis’ story.”   Later in the lawsuit, Fine’s lawsuit said that ESPN hasn’t “published or otherwise made available this entire tape.”

She also claimed that “In 2003, Schwarz  went so far as to spy on Plaintiff, shooting  a hidden camera video of her without her knowledge” and suggested the story was only run because the Penn State sex scandal.

Further, Fine claimed that “By 2011, Schwarz had lost his journalistic objectivity in Davis’ story, in part, by maintaining personal communication with Davis for almost a decade. ”

Fine also cited February 2012 comments by ESPN’s Vice President and Director of News Vince Doria that he “can’t tell you” that “Penn State wasn’t in my head” when ESPN ran the Bernie Fine claims. (See here our report on that conference.)

According to CNN, Fine said at a press conference that she wants ESPN to “apologize and retract these horrible lies reported about me.”

ESPN’s Josh Krulewitz told iMediaEthics by e-mail that “The lawsuit is without merit and we stand by our reporting.”

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Laurie Fine to Sue ESPN for Libel over 2011 Reports, Wants Correction & Retraction

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