Leering, inappropriate attention — it’s not just for peepholes! When ESPN reporter Erin Andrews checked into a Columbus, Ohio hotel in Februrary of 2008, she did what many people do when they’re alone in hotel rooms. She took off her clothes. Little did she know someone was on the other side of the wall, watching her, filming her, someone who would soon be posting what he saw on the Web. Someone who unbeknownst to Andrews had requested a room next to hers — and had his request unblinkingly honored by the hotel. He then did it again. Yesterday, Michael David Barrett pleaded guilty to interstate stalking, and will face up to five years in prison when he’s sentenced in February. Also in that Los Angeles courtroom was Andrews herself, who told Judge Manuel Real, “I am a victim of this sexual predator. I would like to see him immediately put in prison for as long as possible.”
The 48-year-old insurance executive has admitted to taking hotel rooms adjacent to Andrews on three occasions and filming her twice. In addition to posting the material he shot, he also tried to sell it to TMZ.
In court yesterday, Andrews said, “I have nightmares. I walk in crowds and I see him in my peripheral vision. When I’m alone in my house, I have fears he’s going to come in and hurt me… My career has been ripped apart, something I’ve worked very hard for. I am subjected to crude comments, suggestions that I have partnered in this crime. I walk into stadiums, and fans say obscene things to me.”
How could anybody treat a woman who’d been the victim of a stalker as complicit the crime? Well, maybe it has something to do with the fact that the 31-year-old Andrews is blonde and pretty, a fact that rarely goes unremarked — or uneditorialized – in the media coverage of her case.
Yesterday “The New York Post,” ever a bastion of taste and restraint, headlined the story as “Andrews Bares Her Torment” and made sure to note Andrews’s “four-inch heels.” “The New York Daily News,” perhaps rusty on their Greek mythology, referred to the “ESPN beauty” meanwhile as a “sportscasting siren.” And we’re sure she’ll be thrilled to know she’s in the running for “Playboy’s Sexiest Sportscaster of 2009,” especially after earning that top honor last year. Oh, and as Andrews noted yesterday, the videos are still out there.
But the field is not entirely riddled with journalistic peeping Toms. SI.com did a fine job yesterday of describing Andrews’s emotional courtroom plea without leering at her. Between Barrett’s forthcoming sentencing and Andrews’s ongoing campaign for better hotel security, there will no doubt be ample further opportunities for reporters to test their ability to cover stories of voyeurism without stooping to ogle their subjects themselves.