In the aftermath of a post-race imbroglio at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night that saw a number of drivers play Demolition Derby on pit road before a widespread bout of pushing, shoving and questioning of parentage, ESPN and its parent company, ABC, once again plumbed new depths in yellow journalism. Utilizing a team of reporters who wouldn’t know a panhard bar from a tiki bar, ABC’s Good Morning America variously misrepresented the incident as a “brawl,” an “epic brawl” and a “chain reaction rumble,” despite the fact that nary a punch was thrown.
“Now to the brawl on a NASCAR race track,” said GMS anchor Robin Roberts, by way of introduction. “Some of the sport’s top drivers were involved, including Tony Stewart; his first incident since that deadly accident over the summer.”
|GMA's Robin Roberts|
“That deadly accident,” of course, was the August 9 incident at New York’s Canandaigua Motorsports Park that saw Sprint Car driver Kevin Ward, Jr. die after being struck by a car driven by former Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. The self-anointed “Worldwide Leader in Sports” ran footage of Ward’s death repeatedly over the 72 hours that followed, reporting – almost gleefully at times -- on Stewart’s status as a “NASCAR bad boy” and a loose cannon.
GMA leveled the crosshairs on Stewart yet again Monday, despite the fact that he played a minor role in the on-track car wars, and no role whatsoever in the post-race wrestling match. Reporter Gio Benitez breathlessly described the incident as “a chain reaction rumble involving several racers, including Tony Stewart, who’s under NASCAR’s microscope.”
Benitez failed to define “NASCAR’s microscope,” almost certainly because the sanctioning body has taken a hands-off approach to the case, leaving it in the hands of law enforcement, the Ontario County (NY) District Attorney and a grand jury, all of whom declined to file any charges against Stewart.
“Watch as Kenseth and Keselowski get into an epic brawl,” said a breathless Benitez, “one even putting the other in a choke hold.”
He declined to identify which driver was which, probably because he had no idea.
Still not satisfied, GMA rolled out USA columnist Christine Brennan to pick at the Stewart scab one final time.
“With everything the sport has been through,” she huffed, “and everything Tony Stewart has been through in the wake of that fatal accident, to have this kind of nonsense going on is really unconscionable.”
No actual race results were given during GMA’s two-minute NASCAR segment. Kevin Harvick was not identified as the winner of the race and no mention was made of the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings. Stewart, meanwhile, was mentioned a total of five times. It was like covering a fight between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals, but declining to give the final score.
For at least the second time in recent weeks, ABC/ESPN has made it clear that it has no respect for NASCAR, its competitors and fans, multi-year contract be damned. Clearly, their only desire is to continue the ongoing campaign of demonization against Stewart, with or without any actual facts to back it up.
In this writer's personal opinion, they cannot be gone soon enough.