On Monday, a jury awarded $55 million dollars in damages to sports reporter, Erin Andrews, over some illegally captured footage of her naked body. The nearly five minute video went viral back in 2009.
For those who don’t remember, here’s what happened: in September 2008, sideline reporter Andrews checked into the Nashville Marriott while on assignment for ESPN. She was followed to the hotel by Michael Barrett, an insurance salesman and serial stalker from Illinois. Barrett secured the room next to Andrews and tampered with her peephole while she was away. Later he used a cell phone to film Andrews while she was naked inside her room.
Barrett tried to sell the footage to several media outlets, including TMZ, who all told him to get lost. In 2009, he was arrested by the FBI after uploading the video to the Internet. Barrett was then convicted of interstate stalking and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.
During the trial, Andrews gave emotional testimony about how she was treated after the video went live. Most pundits referred to it as a “publicity stunt” and wondered if she had posted it herself. The FBI wouldn’t get involved until she publicly said it was an invasion of her privacy. And ESPN was so concerned about the backlash that her bosses forced her to give a clarifying on-camera interview before she was allowed to return to work. She eventually went on Oprah.
Andrews sought $75 million dollars in damages from her stalker and the hotel, whose staff gave away crucial information without her consent. For example, Barrett learned that Andrews was staying there simply by asking the front desk. And they honored his request to be placed in the room next door without consulting her.
Defense attorneys for the hotel tried to argue that they were not culpable. In fact, they tried to imply that the exposure had actually helped Andrews’ career by elevating her celebrity. And if that sounds like bullshit, that’s because it is. Diverting credit for Andrews’ success away from her hard work and towards some creepy pervert who violated her is ridiculous. That’s like saying the only reason we remember JFK is because he was assassinated. It’s sexist at best, atrocious for real. Luckily the jury didn’t buy that shit and ordered the hotel to pay 49% of the damages. Barrett is responsible for the other 51%, or roughly $28 million dollars.
The battle might be over, but the war continues. Andrews claims that she’s reminded of this video on a daily basis, and by fans at every sports game she attends. That’s fucking low. She has every right to put this behind her, but the Internet is a horrible place that never forgets anything. It’s bad enough being constantly reminded of things you’ve willingly posted in the past (looking at you, Facebook) but never being able to escape one of the most horrifying moments of your life is a total nightmare. When you think about it like that, maybe $55 million dollars isn’t enough. But it’s a good fucking start.