On Campus

NYU fellow trashes raped journalist

Offensive comments are a step back for progressive attitudes toward rape victims

While most of us were horrified to read the news that CBS correspondent Lara Logan had been brutally beaten and raped in Egypt, Nir Rosen, a fellow at NYU Center for Law and Security, just couldn’t resist a few political jabs.

He began his Twitter rant saying:

“Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal.” (Anderson Cooper had also been attacked while covering the protests in Egypt.)

He then continued:

“Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too.” (Rape is hilarious, says NYU scholar.)

And it gets worse:

“Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger.” (Don’t feel too bad for her, she propagates war!)


“Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse than [sic] I’m sorry.” (Maybe if I pluralize her plight than you’ll see my point? Uhh… *then.)

Followed, of course, by a feeble attempt a damage control:

“ah fuck it, I apologize for being insensitive, it’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she will get.”

Then a better one:

“As someone who’s devoted his career to defending victims and supporting justice, I’m very ashamed for my insensitive and offensive comments.”

It’s hard not to be disgusted by Rosen’s remarks. Despite much of the progress that’s taken place in Western society in recent decades with regards to the perception of women and gender equality, sexual assault is one of those issues that seems to lag behind. It wasn’t until 1983 with Bill C-127, for example, that a man could be charged for sexually assaulting his wife. And later, in 1992, when victim blaming finally took a hit with a rape shield law laying out strict guidelines governing how accusers’ previous sexual conduct could be brought into assault trials. Then there are treasures, such as Whoopi Goldberg, who defended Roman Polanski’s rape of  a 13-year-old girl as not “rape-rape,” and worrying stories of honour killings taking place in Canadian cities where girls deemed “sexually immodest” are murdered for dishonouring families.

Blaming the victim is not new, although usually the line is: “Well, if she went out looking like that…” rather than “Well, she is a war monger, after all.” But politicizing tragedy is always tasteless, no matter how you spin it. Whether it’s rejoicing in the grave illness of a political opponent or using a horrific incident to malign those on the other side of the table, there is usually little to be reaped for such rhetoric except for some pitiful self-satisfaction.

As a man and an academic who purports to be a progressive human rights advocate, Rosen has let his larger political agenda blind him from acknowledging individual injustice. Remarks such as his, which are so poorly and misguidedly contextualized, hinder the progression of attitudes towards rape victims and women overall. It seems he can only support justice as long as its on his terms. Your move, NYU.

Update: Nir Rosen submitted his resignation to NYU earlier today. The university has accepted.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.