Blog Post Detail
How Northwestern, CBS misled America — a summary
America was subjected to the following major distortions and outright falsehoods about the 1986 Paris murders, thanks to CBS’ 48 Hours and Northwestern University.
These distortions were first aired in 2001 with the segment titled “Impossible Mission.” It is clear that the narrative that “students uncover new clues in murder case” was almost completely a media fabrication meant to aid defense lawyers trying to free Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock.
This was the same network that three years later would make the phrase “fake but accurate” famous.
Here is what we found:
CBS falsely proclaimed students had found an important new witness who dramatically was the last person to see Dyke and Karen Rhoads alive the night of the murders. The timing of that contact was stated to blow apart the state’s timeline of the murders. The only problem is that the new witness actually saw the couple a night or two earlier, which rendered the entire point as moot. This information already was readily available in police reports years earlier and a detective said he told CBS about the error yet the network ran with it anyway.
CBS’ second “startling” new discovery by students was another “new” witness who claimed to see mysterious trench coat wearing individuals scouting the Rhoads house the night before and the night of the murders. Well, the woman was not “new” and CBS failed to tell the audience that she told police a different story earlier and that she only came forward after she started dating and living with one of Randy Steidl’s best friends. In other words, CBS omitted crucial context that makes her story highly suspect.
CBS allowed Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock to proclaim they didn’t know Dyke and Karen Rhoads prior to the murders when the record shows that to be obviously false when it comes to Whitlock and possibly false in Steidl’s case. The record has always been strong that Whitlock knew Dyke Rhoads. Testimony at trial and several unrebutted reports state that Whitlock sold cocaine to Rhoads and his friends on multiple occasions. One of those friends said Steidl knew Rhoads as well. CBS scoffed at the state’s drug connection in the case when the record was full of unrebutted material to the contrary.
Northwestern Professor David Protess, who left the university after it accused him of lying to university officials and the public in another case, said flatly on national TV that Randy Steidl was nowhere near the crime scene at the time of the murder when Steidl himself admits he was driving to mail his unemployment form at about 3 in the morning (within the time window of the murders). One detective in the case said that Steidl’s brother and others said Randy admitted driving past the house. Yet, Protess baldly stated otherwise in spite of the record and CBS allowed him to do so out of ignorance or intention.
We are contacting CBS and formally asking whether it has any comment on our findings. We will report back on the response.