UPDATED: February 23, 2016
Jeff Arnold, the award-winning journalist who came under fire for penning a piece for SB Nation that appeared to sympathize with ex-cop and serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw, has apologized for failing “to acknowledge the suffering of Mr. Holtzclaw’s victims.”
In a statement released on TwitLonger, Arnold acknowledged that he made a “grave mistake” by not reaching out to the victims, but insisted that at least four editors signed off on the story before it was published.
“Throughout an arduous reporting and editing process, my editor and I were mindful that we could never lose sight of those victims or the horrific treatment each of them experienced. But we also felt there was an untold story to be told, which led us to focus on Mr. Holtzclaw, starting with his past as a football player at Eastern Michigan and his pursuit to play in the NFL.
“In writing this piece – which was reviewed and signed off on by at least four editors prior to its publication – I hoped to present a more fully-rounded portrait of Mr. Holtzclaw than had appeared in the press. I hoped to explore the question of what had happened to this once-promising young man. I and my editor at SB Nation hoped to find possible answers as to what could have led to him to become a convicted rapist and sexual predator. In the end, though, I produced a piece that had massive shortcomings.”
“By not spending more time reaching out to victims or their families as a way of accounting for the horrific abuse they suffered, I made a grave mistake. I accept responsibility for that.”
Last week, shortly after the article was removed from the site, SB Nation’s editorial director Spencer Hall called the article tone-deaf and insensitive.
The publication has since severed ties with Arnold. SB Nation has yet to comment on Arnold’s claim that the article received sign-off from four editors.
What in the world were they thinking?
SB Nation, a sports blog site, published a lengthy article Wednesday about convicted serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw, who targeted mainly vulnerable Black women when he was an Oklahoma City police officer.
Readers were outraged because the piece, which looked at Holtzclaw’s college football career, had a sympathetic tone. Hours later, SB, which is owned by Vox Media, removed the article (though an archived version was still viewable).
SB’s editorial director Spencer Hall took “full responsibility” and offered this explanation:
“The publication of this story represents a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process at SB Nation. There were objections by senior editorial staff that went unheeded. It was tone-deaf, insensitive to the victims of sexual assault and rape, and wrongheaded in approach and execution. There is no qualification: it was a complete failure.”
The article suggested that his failure to become a professional football player likely contributed to him becoming “unhinged.” It also toys with the idea that brain trauma could be an explanation for the sexual assaults. But for many, those suggestions came across as an excuse that ignores the trauma of the victims.