New York Daily News writer Jane McManus took a giant swing at Robert Kraft (who might be a deserving punching bag right now) on Saturday, but she missed the mark.
Kraft, as you likely have heard by now, has been charged with soliciting prostitution at Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupter, Fla. The New England Patriots owner is one of many being eyed in a South Florida prostitution and human trafficking ring. An arrest warrant soon will be issued for the 77-year-old Kraft, who categorically denies the allegations.
We repeat: Kraft has been charged with soliciting prostitution. He has not been charged with sex trafficking. Both crimes obviously are abhorrent, but they are not the same.
Take a look at this tweet, specifically the headline:
That’s pretty irresponsible, regardless of whether McManus or some Daily News social media employee (or both) created the tweet and headline.
Listen, we don’t want to make it seem like we’re minimizing one crime compared to the other. The allegations against Kraft, if true, are both disturbing and warranting of significant discipline.
But words and details matter — especially when reporting/writing about crime. For example: If someone was charged with purchasing drugs, would it be responsible to then insinuate they’re caught up in drug trafficking? Of course not. Two different crimes, we know, but you get the point.
In both cases, it’s wisest to withhold judgement until learning all the facts.
Now, in court, the charge often officially is called “soliciting prostitution and sex trafficking.” So, technically, you could say Kraft allegedly is involved in sex trafficking. But that does not mean he, or any others charged with soliciting prostitution, are considered criminally equal to those behind the alleged sex trafficking ring South Florida.
(You can click here for a useful breakdown of sex trafficking, which is a sub-type that falls under the banner of human trafficking.)
Not only are “sex trafficking allegations” inappropriately assigned to Kraft in the headline, but McManus also plays loose and free with the law in her story.
Take a look at this excerpt:
“This isn’t consensual sex for money. The women have been forced to comply with traffickers in this case, according to law enforcement. It’s exploitation, and it doesn’t require that the situation be explained to Kraft when he walks in the massage parlor door. When people take part in illegal activities, they are taking a risk that they might be lied to, or that the women they meet may not be participating in sex acts of their free will.”
OK, let’s break this down.
“This isn’t consensual sex for money.” This is tricky. Obviously, none of this was consensual for the women, which should be the biggest story. But according to authorities, and the charge, this was Kraft believing he was receiving consensual sex for money. Does that absolve him of being connected to a despicable operation? No, but it’s an important distinction nonetheless.
“It doesn’t require that the situation be explained to Kraft when he walks in the massage parlor door.” Well, the absence of that explanation could prove significant. The fact the situation wasn’t explained to Kraft likely is why he’s only facing a misdemeanor.
“When people take part in illegal activities, they are taking a risk that they might be lied to, or that the women they meet may not be participating in sex acts of their free will.” That’s absolutely true, and in many crimes, lack of knowledge is not a defense. But it’s way too early in this process to assume how prosecutors will view such ignorance.
A note about that tweet: Whether it be backtracking or her genuine intentions, McManus wants to make the case that if sex trafficking indeed took place at the spa, then Kraft’s connection to it makes him responsible on ethical grounds, if nothing else. This is McManus’ opinion, and since we’re talking about ethics — of which there are not exterior absolutes — all opinions are valid. That said, the misleading nature of the headline and convenient exclusion of the facts remains troubling, particularly in a story dealing with such significant subject matter and such a prominent public figure. Simply put, there were much better ways to make her point.
Let’s look at another excerpt:
“If these allegations are true, Kraft doesn’t belong in the league anymore. He doesn’t deserve the victory parades and the cheering masses. And if commissioner Roger Goodell really cares about protecting the shield, he’ll have to bite the hand that pays him for the good of the league. Ultimately it’s because the NFL is bigger than one person, even Kraft, and you can’t have any integrity if the players have to meet one standard, and the owners get a pass.”
“You can’t have any integrity if the players have to meet one standard, and the owners get a pass.” A lot of people have been saying this. And yes, there’s no denying owners get longer leashes than players. But (sadly) there are too many owners and players who have gotten relatively free passes after allegedly committing heinous crimes. You know the individuals we’re talking about.
There’s a double standard there, to be sure, but it’s not as big as everyone wants to believe. And it’s definitely not strong enough to cite as a reason for calling for someone’s head.
OK, one more excerpt:
“NFL teams require loyalty, and that’s why these kinds of cases are problematic. Take a look at social media and you’ll find many fans saying that Kraft has been victimized, or they may conflate human trafficking with prostitution. Fans will be looking for ways to deny the horror of this alleged crime and the victims that suffer from enslavement, out of loyalty to their team.”
“You’ll find many fans saying that Kraft has been victimized, or they may conflate human trafficking with prostitution.” Again, words matter.
McManus is suggesting fans are lumping sex trafficking allegations with solicitation charges in an attempt to minimize the former. And you know what? Maybe there are some fans who are doing that. However, “conflating” those two is precisely what McManus is doing with her headline and story, but to achieve the reverse effect. It’s a very weird form of hypocrisy.
Once more: What Kraft is alleged of doing is wrong and worthy of punishment. We would never argue that. The simple fact he’s at all connected to such a horrendous operation is undeniably gross. Furthermore, it’s not hard to craft an argument for why Kraft should lose his job.
But if we’re going to do that, let’s develop our reasoning with logic, facts and fairness.
Otherwise, let’s face it: You’re engaging in f**e news.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images