After actor Anthony Rapp alleged two-time Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey sexually harassed him when he was just 14, the New York Daily News, People, ABC News, and Reuters deflected the sexual misconduct claims with headlines completely missing the point by trumpeting that Spacey was out of the closet.
Surely Spacey was hoping for this outcome when he released a responsibility-dodging statement in response to Anthony Rapp’s allegations that then-26-year-old Spacey picked up the 14-year-old Rapp, “placed him on his bed and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance.” Spacey’s statement shirks responsibility for the horrific event described by Rapp, now 46, by saying that he “honestly” doesn’t “remember the encounter” but that if it happened, he is sorry and it was “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.”
Spacey spends the second half of his two-paragraph statement coming out as gay, a fact long-rumored in the media. The statement says that while he has had relationships with men and women, “I choose now to live as a gay man.”
Instead of focusing primarily on the alleged sexual abuse of a child, many major news outlets decided to make Spacey’s sexuality the main focal point of their initial coverage. In a tweet covering the news, Reuters wrote: “Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey declares he lives life as a gay man.” No doubt this was a dream come true for Spacey’s PR team, who must have been hoping his coming out would draw attention away from Rapp’s allegations.
That major news outlets would follow Spacey’s lead here is utterly shameful. Why did the media use their headlines to help Spacey minimize abuse allegations? It is supposed to be the media’s job to parse the newsworthy facts out of statements and not simply follow celebrity subterfuge away from what should be the story here.
As social media criticism mounted, Reuters tweeted what the news agency clearly should have led with from the beginning: “Kevin Spacey apologizes over alleged encounter with minor.”
Criticism from other members of the media continued Monday.
From Guardian reporter Julia Carrie Wong:
The conservative Daily Wire’s Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro tweeted:
RARE POV: The right should not dismiss #MeToo
Rapp’s story should be covered the same way the sexual misconduct and rape allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein are now being handled: with careful attention to the details and facts, and with sensitivity for the victims.
This is especially true because, as with Weinstein, the London theater community has apparently had “concerns” about Spacey’s behavior for “a lot of years,” reports The Independent. Apparently, the media has been complicit in burying stories of sexual misconduct by the rich and famous and have assisted in discrediting victims.
Now that social and alternative media provide a measure of accountability, let’s hope more traditional media outlets will do the right thing and shine their considerable spotlight on protecting the powerless and innocent from abuse.