Earlier this week, Chris Cuomo interviewed Amanda Knox for a CNN hour-long special. It is indicative of the feeding frenzy in today’s mass media that this highly promoted interview was run a half-hour late so that Anderson Cooper could report the latest lack of news about the salacious case du jour, the forced confinement for a decade of three women in a Cleveland house, allegedly by a 52-year-old monster named Ariel Castro. The fact that there were no breaking developments seemed to matter little.
When the scheduled interview finally got underway, it became clear early on that Ms. Knox and Mr. Cuomo each had wildly different agendas. Certainly, Knox wanted to promote her just released book, Waiting to be Heard. But she also wanted to talk about the truth of her situation and what happened to her in Perugia, Italy, in November 2007. Mr. Cuomo, on the other hand, just wanted drama, and truth seemed to be of little consideration one way or the other.
Instead of dealing with facts and her own terrified mindset at the time, Cuomo kept assaulting Knox with questions like, “Were you into deviant sex? Insensitive question, but hey, we gotta get to what it is.”
When she kept trying to pull it back to a factual level with statements such as, “There’s no evidence,” he came back with, “That’s the theory: Knox is into some freaky sexual things.” She finally had to go so far as to proclaim that she didn’t dress in leather and carry a whip, and that she’d never participated in an orgy – not even once.
He challenged her on her momentary hesitations when responding to his baiting questions and visually demonstrated skepticism when she explained that not only was she shy and uncomfortable with public speaking, but preferred expressing herself in writing than in speech, a fact that has long been established in her biographic profile.
He also showed either a profound insensitivity to, or ignorance of, the various ways individuals react in times of extreme crisis, castigating her for her apparent outward show of emotion. This is the same charge that was leveled against John Ramsey upon the death of JonBenet, and even Charles Lindbergh when his baby son was kidnapped in 1932.
Then he showed the famous out of context image of her kissing her new boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito while the murder scene was being investigated. Come on, Chris. Have you ever wanted a little tenderness and reassurance while your world was coming apart around you?
It has become fashionable to analyze people through facial expressions and body language and there are all sorts of “expert” practitioners out there purporting to get at the truth through this means. Well, we happen to think we’re pretty good at it and have some real and meaningful experience. And it was clear to us through expression and body language that what Cuomo was after was merely to play on Knox’s vulnerabilities and break her down. He could have been one of the 12 tag-teamed Italian interrogators who did just that to her during days of interrogation and threats that finally led to an exhausted, fear and haze-induced false confession.
Mr. Cuomo, you kept asking Amanda why so many people thought she was guilty, as if she should have to explain and answer for all those who got it wrong. Well, we’ll answer for her. It was first the vicious, incompetent police and prosecutors who were so wedded to their own confirmation bias that nothing else mattered. And then it was the media: lazy, non-investigative journalists who relied on tabloid reporting and quickly realized that a “good” story was much better than a “true” story.
But you know something? We expected more and better of you and CNN.
Regrettably, in your bald grab for sensationalism and ratings, instead of seriously going for the truth, you abused a young woman who has been victimized more than enough for things she never did and characterized as a person she never was. As a result, the entire interview revealed less about Amanda herself and more about the methods and techniques that have been used to villainize her.
Back in the 1960’s when we grew up, we used to have a slogan: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”