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What Imus And Nifong Really Have In Common

A lot of people have tried to make a connection between Don Imus and Mike Nifong, and most have tried to base the connection on race. That's definitely part of this, but there's an aspect which a lot of people are overlooking, and that's arrogance and how their arrogance made it hard for them to realize how far out of step with most of the world they were.

Imus surrounded himself with flunkies and yes-men. The funniest thing in radio is listening to Charles McCord ingratiate himself to Imus, to hear him agree with absolutely anything the man says. And Imus, pretty clearly, never minded a subversient sidekick.

As for Nifong, his arrogance has been on display for over a year, although some of it wasn't clear until some of the records were made public. He talked of what the rape kit revealed before it had been released. He refused to even consider a well-documented alibi. And then there's his "apology." It just underscores how little he understands his situation, and how absolutely tone-deaf he is about the public image he projects.

  • His suggestion that the special prosecutors had developed more evidence than he had is ridiculous. There was no evidence of a crime. The only "evidence" that they could have developed is to actually talk extensively to Crystal Gail Mangum and to realize she's dotty (latest story: she claims she was suspended in mid-air and assaulted by all three former defendants, according to A.G. Roy Cooper).
  • Her story changed even while she was being interviewed.
  • Nifong actually takes some credit for Cooper's actions: "At the same time, it is important to remember that the Attorney General had the opportunity to review this investigation and to make this decision because I requested that he do so. [Copies of my letter making that request and the Attorney General's response thereto are attached.] It is also important to remember that I turned over to him every document, every photograph, every piece of evidence of any kind that had been turned up in the Durham Police Department's investigation of these cases and in my office's review of that investigation. If I did not want to subject either that investigation or my own performance to such scrutiny – if, in other words, I had anything to hide – I could have simply dismissed the cases myself. The fact that I instead chose to seek that review should, in and of itself, call into question the characterizations of this prosecution as 'rogue' and 'unchecked.'"
  • He fails to mention here that one of Cooper's criticisms was of the rigged lineup. Not only did his "review" fail to detect that, but he was, according to earlier reports, directly responsible for the decision to alter the procedure.
  • "Those of us who work within [the legal system] system can only make the best judgments we can based on the facts available to us with the understanding that those judgments may have to be modified as more facts become known. That is the process I used in these cases, and that is the process the Attorney General used in these cases. To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused. I also understand that, whenever someone has been wrongly accused., the harm caused by the accusations might not be immediately undone merely by dismissing them. It is my sincere desire that the actions of Attorney General Cooper will serve to remedy any remaining injury that has resulted from these cases."

The thing to remember here is this: it wasn't that he made incorrect judgments, it was that he formed an opinion with no facts and stubbornly held onto it even as facts emerged which made holding that opinion significantly more difficult.

And more to the point, like Imus, Nifong is a bully. He showed this when he used his considerable power to persecute the innocent, of course, but also when he went after Moezeldin Elmostafa, when he reportedly screamed obscenities at other attorneys in the hallway, when he tried to keep exculpatory DNA evidence from seeing the light of day.

And, much like Imus, when things go against him, his bullying reveals an underlying cowardice. This was most obvious when the interviews stopped, but also when reporters were briefly barred from the public building housing his office (which you can't do in a public building, reporters being part of the public), with signs hastily posted on his office door reading "No Media!!!", with his in-court eye-rolling, with his suggestions that if he were on the other side, he'd be scared of himself, just goes on. And we would be remiss if we didn't miss his pathetic plea to the public to hear all the facts before judging him - a level of decency he demanded for himself even as he was denying it to others.

Both men are cowards (or in Nifong's term, poultry). But Imus's victims while, hurt, heard an insult. Nifong's victims are millions in debt, have had their college and athletic careers ruined, and despite Cooper's public exoneration will never fully escape the cloud they now live under. What he did to them is unconscionable, and he has to be held responsible for it