It’s been a long, frustrating week for Fox sportswriter Clay Travis, who has been trying to right media wrongs that have amounted to, in his opinion, a smear campaign against Peyton Manning.
“I’ve been spending an entire week talking about one man mooning another man or one man mooning a woman,” Travis said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “This is not what I expected to do. But damn if it hasn’t led to a lot of readers and a lot of listeners and everything else. So I hope that we’re putting the capstone on it here and that by Monday this story will be dead like it was 20 years ago when it got covered and 13 years ago when it got covered.”
Travis blasted New York Daily News writer Shaun King for his involvement in “breaking” the story of Manning’s alleged sexual assault of a trainer at the University of Tennessee in 1996. King has come under fire this week for what many feel was shoddy reporting. In fact, Travis, in a recent column, called King “either really dumb or willfully negligent” or “(possibly) both.”
“If you are a media person, you’re charged with knowing certain things, and all Shaun King had to do was use Google and he could have seen that these documents and been written about all over the place,” Travis said. “This incident (was) discussed at nauseam 20 years ago when it happened. I talked to Chris Low from The Tennessean who now writes for ESPN, and he said this story was the second-biggest of Peyton Manning’s college career. The biggest was his pursuit of the Heisman Trophy and not winning.”
Travis took offense with King’s initial story, saying, “It was told in such a salacious fashion as if no one knew about it. One of the premises of his article was this had been covered up by a complicit media who wanted to allow Peyton Manning to be treated differently.”
Trying to smear Manning for this incident now would be like ripping Kobe Bryant during the All-Star Game for his alleged sexual assault in 2003.
“He played his final All-Star Game and I haven’t seen a single article about it,” Travis said. “Peyton Manning mooned somebody 20 years ago and he may have just finished his career and you would have thought that he was Charles Manson.”
Travis pointed out that Jamie Naughright, the trainer whom Manning allegedly sexually assaulted, signed an affidavit in 1996 that did not mention any physical contact from Manning. Naughright, however, changed her story seven years later in a defamation lawsuit.
“This is just a total mess,” Travis said. “The only person whose story has remained the same throughout is Peyton Manning. This woman’s story has changed – and she stands to change her story, I think, because she’s trying to make money off of the lawsuit.”
Travis added that the timing of this story – after the Super Bowl but before the college basketball conference tournaments – is important.
“This is a dead zone,” he said. “I think the fact that this story dropped now – as opposed to even the week before the Super Bowl when somebody else wrote the exact same story and it didn’t get any attention – I think it’s an interesting study in what makes things go viral. A lot of times stories grow and get oxygen when there’s nothing else to talk about. I don’t think there’s much more here. I tend to think that by Monday this story will be dead.”