Reporter defends ESPN's coverage of Fine allegations (cont.)
Why did Davis reach out to ESPN after speaking with the local Post-Standard? He had seen an Outside the Lines report in 2001 by Schwarz on former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who had been abused for years by junior hockey coach Graham James. That interview, Schwarz said, stuck with Davis.
"That was one of the most riveting, gut-wrenching interviews I've ever done and the first time I have ever been exposed to the issue of sexual child abuse," Schwarz said. "I think Bobby felt safe to come to ESPN and particularly to Outside the Lines to say, 'I have something on my chest and I really want to get it out, and I am willing to tell the story.' "
In 2003, Schwarz and Berko traveled to Davis' home in Utah to interview him. (Schwarz said he has spent hundreds of hours talking with the alleged victim.) Davis then came back to Syracuse to be filmed by ESPN in front of Fine's house. Schwarz said Davis was detail-specific during his interviews. Asked directly if he found Davis credible, Schwarz did not hesitate.
"He talked about things such as, 'He ejaculated me, and he wiped me off, and it was the first time that it had ever happened and it actually felt good to me. I wondered if I was gay, and then I ran out of his house four blocks down my street to my house, crying," Schwarz said of what Davis told him. "There was a terror when he told these stories. He put himself back in that bed of Bernie Fine's when he was 12 years old.
"Arty Berko and I looked in this kid's eye and listened to his stories of terror. There was nothing that wasn't credible about them. He was reliving a train wreck every moment when we asked him these questions, and he talked in great detail about everything that happened to him. Eight years later when I visited him, he reiterated the stories in almost the same language and cadence and detail that he did eight years earlier."
Schwarz said he and Berko interviewed Davis on three different occasions in 2003, and at the time Davis gave ESPN a list of five to 10 people who might speak about Fine.
"We would call them and they would say, 'Get out of our face and nothing happened,' or 'I don't know what you are talking about,' " Schwarz said. "Mike Lang was one of those people."
Before last month, Schwarz and Berko last saw Davis in December 2003. But Schwarz kept in contact with Davis regularly via e-mail. He said he would make contact every year or two with Davis, but the contact was not extensive.
"I would just try to see how he was doing and what was going on in his life," Schwarz said. "He got married, he got divorced. He said he was done thinking about Bernie Fine, he had found God, he didn't really want to deal with it anymore because it was too painful."
Schwarz said he decided to reach out to Davis one last time a few months ago. Davis told him that he was married with two kids and that everything was great.
"I told him I was glad to hear it and I honestly felt that was pretty much the end," Schwarz said.
Today, Schwarz remains in touch with Davis on a daily basis to get reaction to the news cycle. He and Berko have been in Syracuse since last weekend and will remain there in the coming days.
"What is really critical now is Syracuse has to look at how it handled Bobby Davis when he came with those allegations in 2005, and they have to look at whether Jim Boeheim, over the course of a 36-year association with Bernie Fine, might have known more on his watch then he has said to this point," Schwarz said. "They have to look at that very carefully. Bobby Davis told us Jim Boeheim saw he and Bernie all the time in hotels and on road trips. He said to us Boeheim would come in his room and see me laying on his bed and glance at him as if to say, 'What are you doing here?' "
Boeheim has strongly denied Davis' assertion that he saw Davis in Fine's hotel room on team trips.
We asked Schwarz, the face of ESPN's reporting on this case, to respond to some additional questions:
On criticism of his reporting:
"I think the problem with people that react to any story of this nature, including Jason Whitlock and Jim Boeheim, is these are the types of stories that are difficult to fathom. We don't understand sexual child abuse as a culture and so when people do come forward, which is so very unusual, often the reaction is, 'That guy must be looking for money. That guy is looking for attention.'
"What people probably fail to consider is going to national television and saying that a man fondled my penis hundreds of times does not usually give one the kind of attention that people seek. I think Jason Whitlock and Jim Boeheim reacted to the very first thing they saw and decided it was unfair, untrue and the victims became their target. Or in the case of Whitlock, I became the target. Of course, when the story unfolded, a lot of that stuff kind of went away.
"The part that is the most difficult for me is Bobby Davis put his entire soul and reputation out there and then Jim Boeheim, a person much more respected in the community, put a knife through him. That is what makes it so hard for other people to come forward with this stuff because they see how a Boeheim crushes a Bobby Davis, and they don't want to be crushed themselves."
On why he has not yet interviewed Bernie or Laurie Fine about the allegations:
"We never really have gotten any kind of access to him through his attorney. We went at that really hard early last week. We told them we have new information that we think you should know about and before we go with it, we would like to speak to Bernie and his wife. They said, 'What is the new information?' We said, 'Well, we'll tell you that when you get Bernie and Laurie in touch with us.' They never did. They never produced them."
On the notion, which has been raised in some corners, that ESPN pushed the Bernie Fine story as hard as it has and when it did in reaction to having the journalistic equivalent of the Penn State story:
"I think that is ludicrous. One story has nothing to do with another story. The fact is, the reason why this story was aired on ESPN on Nov. 17 is because someone came out from denial to corroborate a story that we had been given by one man in 2003. It did have to do with Penn State in that Penn State created this contact between two stepbrothers who have had all of three or four conversations over 11 years. That is another misconception. Jim Boeheim called [Lang] his cousin and said, 'Isn't it interesting that his cousin ...' The fact is the two are stepbrothers and not cousins, and they are not in contact with one another at all. Bobby Davis saw Mike Lang at Mike Lang's father's funeral. That was one of their only contacts in the last 10 years."
On not reporting the case harder between 2003 and 2011:
"I would have taken a run at it every month of my career between 2003 and 2011 if I could have been pulled off other events and other coverage. If someone said you can either do this story, or you can do 100 NBA championship events or 17 World Series, which would you do, I would do this story and let other people cover the World Series."
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