SBD/November 29, 2011/Media

ESPN Questioned For Sitting On Tape In Bernie Fine Case For Nearly A Decade

ESPN said it did not broadcast phone call for years because charges weren't corroborated
ESPN “sat on a 2002 taped conversation between Laurie Fine, the wife of recently fired Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine and Bobby Davis, the man accusing Fine of molesting him, for nearly a decade” before airing it this past weekend, according to Sofia Fernandez of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The net said that it did not broadcast the phone call until Sunday because it “did not have corroboration on the charges.” ESPN's Mark Schwarz Sunday said, "We didn't have a corroborating second alleged victim and so we kept the tape for eight years not really knowing what to do with it until the second alleged victim, Mike Lang, came forward" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 11/28). The tape aired 10 days after ESPN first reported on the allegations against Fine, and ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria said, “When we had the audio in the past we had never been able to confirm that it was Laurie Fine. Part of it was we had no independent video of her and her voice." Doria: "This time around when we re-engaged on the story we did in fact have a video we found on-line of her serving a meal to Bernie and a number of young men who may or may not have been Syracuse players. In this video you could clearly hear her.” Doria added, “At the same time we felt we really wanted to go to the Fines and present this evidence to them and give them the opportunity to respond in order to be as fair as possible. … We were preparing to likely report this on Tuesday, November 29. We were going to give the Fines and their lawyer until the beginning of this week to respond. When the Syracuse Post-Standard story broke over the weekend of a third alleged victim … we felt the story had now risen to the level where we were comfortable putting the tape out” (FRONTROW.ESPN.com, 11/28). Syracuse Post-Standard Senior Managing Editor Stan Linhorst "refused to answer any questions about the paper's reporting" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/29). 

WHY WAS TAPE NOT GIVEN TO AUTHORITIES? Syndicated radio host Dan Patrick said of ESPN’s handling of the Fine story: “You have a tape with Bernie Fine’s accuser talking to Bernie Fine’s wife. … If the mothership had this for almost a decade, how did it not end up in the hands of the police? … How do you not give it to the authorities and say, ‘Guys, this is what’s been happening, this is what’s happened.’” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 11/28). In N.Y., Dick Weiss notes there are “questions about the way ESPN and the Syracuse Post-Standard handled the Davis tape.” If the news agencies “believed the tape was evidence of criminal activity and were interested in justice for the alleged victim, why didn’t they immediately turn it over to authorities?" Weiss asks, “Why in 2011 -- eight years after it first heard the tape -- did ESPN decide to hire a voice recognition expert to verify Laurie Fine’s identity” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/29). FOXSPORTS.com's Jason Whitlock writes, "We need a plausible explanation for whatever gave ESPN and The Post-Standard pause in 2003 and again last week. It can't simply be because there was no third accuser" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/29).
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