Just one week ago, computer expert and Penn State Professor Bernard Jansen gave the "conservative" estimate that since stalker Michael David Barrett released nude footage of sports reporter Erin Andrews that he shot through a peephole in her Nashville hotel room, 17 million people have have viewed it. "Right now,” he said, "someone is watching that video." On Tuesday, Neal Peskind was one of them.
Here are the undisputed events. This week, Peskind has been in a Nashville courtroom, appearing as a representative for West End Hotel Partners — the group that owns the Vanderbilt Marriott where Andrews was filmed. Andrews is currently in the midst of a $75 million lawsuit against the Vanderbilt, West End Hotel Partners and Windsor Capital Group, and Michael David Barrett. On Tuesday, Peskind and some friends went out to dinner — and someone at the table showed the video. According to the firm representing him, "Mr. Peskin [sic] and two of his friends, a husband and wife, were having dinner, and the friends brought the video up on their phone, to which he objected and immediately asked them to stop. The video was then turned off. We don't make light of this situation. Ms. Andrews was the victim of a crime, which has been our position from the beginning and is the reason Mr. Peskin [sic] asked his friends to stop the video. Other comments attributed to Mr. Peskin [sic] surrounding this conversation never occurred."
According to local news station WSMV, "after several meetings with attorneys" Peskind then issued his own statement, saying, "I was at a private dinner meeting with friends. They brought up the allegations and they started viewing the video. I asked them to stop, and while they did so, it was not as quickly as I had hoped. This incident has been blown into something it was not. I would never disrespect Ms. Andrews and what she has been through. This is a very unfortunate situation that should not be a reflection on West End Hotel Partners or to our commitment to the issues in this case surrounding what happened to her. I sincerely apologize for my participation in what happened."
But in a series of now deleted tweets, Nicole Branigan, a server at the Margot Cafe and Bar, gave a very different account. She said that "Peskind, attny for the hotel in the Erin Andrews case, was in the restaurant I work at showing the vid… he said it was going to cost him millions [and] he was going to watch it and show everyone… Then he and his guests proceed to discuss her body & how she doesn't deserve money from the trial bc of her body…. It was vulgar and shocking. We had to ask them to stop."
The restaurant's owner, Margot McCormick, has issued a statement saying, "Based on what I have heard regarding the incident last night, one of my servers was made uncomfortable by activity at one of our tables. It is my understanding the supervisor on duty asked the customer to stop the behavior. I would expect any of my staff to respond to rude or offensive behavior in my restaurant."
The Tennessean reports that the incident is not being entered into evidence at the trial. But speaking with the paper, local attorney Susan Neal Dickerson observed that "It really speaks volumes about the effect this had on her, that it happens so frequently, and it would happen in the context of this lawsuit." Suppose you take the position that Peskind is telling the complete truth. Still, who the hell does this? Who behaves like this? Because I have to say, I've been out to dinner with friends many times in my life and I've yet to have a situation where one "friend" whips out a video of a woman's privacy being violated by her stalker. Any sentient adult would be able to grasp that it is not okay to look at that video, period, and further get it that it would be a world class gesture of grotesque entitlement to look at it in public, over some red quinoa with grilled lacinato kale, mushrooms & pecorino, with your buddies.
The fact this happened at all makes, at the minimum, one super awful person at that dinner table that night. And it solidifies what Andrews herself said Monday she endures, when she testified, "This happens every day of my life, either I get a tweet or somebody makes a comment in the paper or somebody sends me a still of the video to my Twitter or someone screams it at me in the stands and I’m right back to this."