Narratives, Nonsense, and Media-Driven Character Assassination: The Manning Saga Continues

The Washington Post now KNOWS why Peyton Manning “sexually assaulted” former University of Tennessee athletic trainer Jamie Naughright: She “may have” accused him of cheating in class. Scoop!

Well, maybe not. We don’t know, since there are a few pages of Naughright’s lawsuit that the Post claims could be cheating accusations that are not released to the media, but since Al Jazeera recently claimed that Peyton Manning used steroids during the year he recovered from neck surgery in 2011, why, everyone KNOWS that Manning is a cheater.

(Google searches tell me that the Post has taken upon itself to be the anti-Manning vehicle much like the New York Times led the way in media coverage when the NYT was stubbornly backing the prosecution in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case. The NYT decided to go with the leftists narratives on rape and race, and pointedly ignored mountains of exculpatory evidence until its coverage totally ran aground. While the Post tried to pile on, too, including stories like this, nonetheless it could not match the Grey Lady for outright false reporting. However, in the Manning saga, it seems that the WaPo is determined to have Duke Lacrosse II.)

First, and most important, we do not know what was redacted in Naughright’s 2002 lawsuit against Peyton and Archie Manning, because no one is talking, at least not on the record. However, nowhere in the WaPo story does reporter Will Hobson use the code words, “sources said.” Instead, he hints at it using a deposition from the 2002 case in which Naughright’s lawyers interviewed then-University of Tennessee Athletic Director Doug Dickey:

Q: “Were you aware that in 1994 Dr. Naughright was a guest lecturer in a course taught by Carmen Tegano?” A: “No.” …

Q: “Do you recall it ever being reported by Carmen Tegano, or anyone else, that Dr. Naughright had spoken to Carmen Tegano about the possibility of Peyton Manning having committed academic fraud in that course?” A: “No.”

This is a most interesting development, right? Peyton Manning must have “sexually assaulted” Jamie Naughright because she accused him of cheating. So, that also fits the “Manning the cheater” narrative.

However, there is a problem with that, just as there have been major problems with this whole case narrative that the news media apparently does not wish to address. In a recent interview with the Post, Tegano laughed off the idea that Manning had to cheat in that class:

“It was a one-hour pass/fail class that was required of all athletes, and under no circumstances did Peyton Manning cheat. The class was based on attendance … It was an orientation class,” Tegano said. “Do you think he needed to cheat in a pass/fail class? … We’re talking about a man who graduated with one of the highest grade-point averages in his class.”Given that

Given that real-live academic fraud does exist in higher education, and not just at the University of Tennessee, it is easy to make accusations, and narrative following journalists like Hobson are not anxious to veer off the easy path and search for answers, since most readers (and editors) will believe whatever they write, anyway. And Peyton Manning the cheater is a nice narrative that will allow Hobson and other sportswriters to avoid doing serious research, and it easily dovetails with the Peyton Manning sexual assault narrative.

It is instructive to me that Hobson and other journalists cannot see a bigger picture, as apparently they want nothing to interfere with their narrative-driven logic. It would be quite difficult for an athlete to commit “academic fraud” in a class with no exams and attendance-based grading unless the athlete were to cut a deal with the person taking attendance to mark him “present” even if he were not there.” Somehow, I doubt seriously that a person who was graduated Magna Cum Laude as an undergraduate at UT would need to cheat in a one-hour pass/fail class in order to pass, especially since other athletes whose academic performances were not in Manning’s league also passed.

At some point, one realizes that we are dealing with nothing less than all-out character assassination by the news media, all because Peyton Manning, who is white had the gall, the effrontery to quarterback a team to a Super Bowl win over a Cam Newton-led team that was heavily favored and led by a black quarterback. While as an athlete I can understand the kind of disappointment Newton felt after the loss – and I am not on the hate-Cam bandwagon because of his ill-fated press conference – nonetheless the hatred directed at Manning because Newton received bad publicity truly is amazing.

There is another point to this whole sorry affair that needs to be made, and that involved the Great Big Narrative that has been driving Manning’s post-Super Bowl coverage. According to the media, the Big, Powerful Manning Family viciously destroyed Naughright’s brilliant career by defaming her in a 2000 book. (One of my friends on Facebook excoriated me for my LRC story because, in her words, the Mannings “smeared” the poor woman.) While a few people in the media like Clay Travis have stood behind Manning, most of the media, especially the WaPo and ESPN, have been absolutely craven.

One needs to step back and apply real logic, as opposed to the narrative-driven, two-plus-two-equals-five logic that the media has pursued. Let us go back to the original lawsuit that deals with the 1996 “mooning” incident in the UT training room during spring football drills. Jamie Naughright (then Jamie Whitted). When she settled with UT for alleges “sexual harassment” in 1997, the Manning affair was one out of 33 points she made in her complaint. It is quite doubtful that the alleged “mooning” business was the reason Whitted received $300,000 from the university.

We also should note that the whole “mooning” incident was heavily covered in the Tennessee media during that time. For all of the false “no one ever talked about this” claims we have read from writers like Shaun King, people did talk about it, and reporters wrote about it extensively. There were no secrets in the media, and I knew some of the writers personally, and to a person, they have said they did not cover up anything.

(As one female athlete who was at UT during that time and clearly supports Manning told me, “It was a men’s locker room, for goodness sakes. What do you expect?” Yes, she admits, the mooning was in bad taste, but one should expect bad taste in that setting and not overreact.)

This controversy passed, but the 2000 book, “Manning: A Father, His Sons, and a Football Legacy” has a short passage about the “mooning” incident in which Naughright’s name is not mentioned. He does mention that Naughright had “a vulgar mouth,” and that he was surprised it went as far as it did. (Right after the incident, Manning called Naughright to apologize and he also sent her a registered letter of apology, but she did not respond.)

At that time, Naughright was director of the athletic training educational program at Florida Southern College. (She earned her doctorate at UT, which is why Shaun King always refers to her as “Dr. Naughright.”) In 2001, Florida Southern demoted her, removing her from her directorship, and Naughright left FSC in December of that year.

Naughright claims that the passage in the book is what led to her demotion, although there clearly would be nothing official from FSC on that subject. Furthermore, she claimed in her 2002 lawsuit that the passage kept her from finding new employment. The 2002 lawsuit, as I noted in my previous article on this case, was the first time she alleged Manning actually made contact with her with his private body parts.

A number of commentators have said that Manning broke a “nondisclosure” agreement regarding the case, yet I don’t think that is the situation. First, and most important, Peyton Manning was not a party to the original lawsuit and was not bound by any agreements made in the settlement between UT and Naughright. I am not aware of any legal agreements that Manning made with Naughright (but would stand corrected if someone were to show such a document to me).

Second, had Manning left out the incident, then many of those same sportswriters who have criticized him for including it would have claimed he was “whitewashing” his career because the original “mooning” was heavily covered in the media. Furthermore, Naughright’s suit against Manning was for defamation, not a breach of any nondisclosure agreements.

One thing should be pointed out: Naughright has had a reputation for vulgar and obscene speech, and I have had contact with people who knew her then and have agreed with Manning’s characterization. Furthermore, it is highly doubtful that Naughright, if she were the world-class, “force-of-nature” trainer she claimed to be in her 2002 lawsuit, a few curse words would not have kept her from further employment, given that many coaches in both men’s and women’s college sports are known for X-rated speech. Not only that, but Naughright’s $300,000 settlement with UT was common knowledge in the collegiate athletic world, and if anything would have served as a barrier to her employment in that arena, it would have been her lawsuits.

In short, if the truth is a defense against libel, slander, and defamation, then there was nothing in that passage that defamed Naughright. Furthermore, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Mannings did anything else to damage Naughright’s career. There is no record of phone calls to powerful people, no public statements, no threats, nothing. Had the Mannings engaged in a defamation campaign, as Naughright, her attorneys, and so many in the media are alleging, then where is the evidence? The so-called evidence is a small passage in an obscure book that does not give a false picture of Naughright’s speech characteristics.

(Yes, her lawyers interviewed people who claimed otherwise, but I can trot forward a list of people who can name chapter-and-verse in favor of Manning’s words. There also is more, including her numerous calls to reporters to a point that some have characterized as harassment. Furthermore, it is doubtful that she was demoted at FSC because of what Manning wrote in the book, and if she did not have a vulgar mouth while working at FSC and was the model employee she claims to have been, then there would be no reason for college officials to demote her, at least for “vulgarity.”)

The sports network ESPN did a documentary in 2004 on the incident, but Manning was not quoted on camera. As part of the settlement of the 2002 suit, there was a nondisclosure agreement, which was why Manning did not make any comments. Naughright sued Manning again, this time in 2005, claiming that Manning made statements to ESPN. However, two months later, Naughright filed for dismissal, with the case allegedly being settled, and the case file being ordered destroyed in 2014.

Again, I must emphasize that in 1996, no one claimed that Peyton Manning made physical contact with Naughright. Instead, she made that allegation in the 2002 lawsuit, but while she had one sympathetic witness, Malcolm Saxon, then a member of UT’s track team, not even he stated that Manning had made contact with Naughright, as she alleges.

For all of the accusations that the “powerful” Manning family “destroyed” Naughright’s career, we are speaking of one passage in a book that was not exactly a New York Times bestseller. Moreover, the passage only said she had a vulgar mouth, and Manning hardly was the only person making that claim.

If Naughright claimed that Peyton Manning had committed “academic fraud,” and if that claim were not true, then it would not be surprising if he disliked her. One would think that if someone were to claim “academic fraud,” then one might pick a real course that had real exams and real grades. Given there was nothing “academic” about this particular one-hour, pass/fail course, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion that maybe Naughright just didn’t like Manning and decided early to go after him.

Let us step back and look at the big picture. Two weeks ago, Peyton Manning achieved what no one believed was possible just a few months ago. He was badly injured and was benched for backup Brock Osweiler, and most observers had concluded that Manning was finished.

When Manning’s injuries had healed enough for him to return to practice, he took snaps with the scout team, which also is known as a “practice squad” or the “taxi squad.” (These are players who are not on the roster and do not play in games. Their purpose is to help the players on the regular team get ready for games.

Many quarterbacks, and especially future hall-of-famers, would have refused such duty and would have wreaked havoc with the coaching staff. Manning quietly did what was needed, even though such a demotion would have been truly humiliating. However, in the last regular-season game against the San Diego Chargers, Osweiler faltered and Manning came in and led his team to victory.

He then played all the snaps for the two playoff games and the Super Bowl. Manning, who at 39 is the oldest quarterback ever to have won a Super Bowl, was not spectacular and he certainly was not the Peyton Manning of even two years ago, but the Denver Broncos won and that was all that mattered. At least then.

Today, Peyton Manning is being trotted out by the Left as the poster child of sexual violence and worse. That he sexually assaulted no one doesn’t matter when leftists are on a crusade.

To watch the media pile on Manning in the pursuit of what clearly are false charges is a reminder that American journalists have learned nothing from the Duke Lacrosse Case or the faux rape case at the University of Virginia. Instead of applying elementary logic and trying to find out what actually occurred, journalists run after the narratives and create havoc along the way. If lies are trotted out as truth and innocent people run over, who cares? The narrative comes first.