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Media surprisingly show restraint on sensational Molly Shattuck story

Can the media really stay high road on the Molly Shattuck story?

Thursday morning, some listeners of the “Norris & Davis Show” on 105.7 The Fan called in to joke about Molly Shattuck being charged with third-degree rape and unlawful sexual contact with a 15-year-old boy.

I’ll spare you the “humor.”

But after one male caller jokingly said he wishes he had teachers like Shattuck when he was in high school,  Steve Davis stepped in and said that while he gets the joking, he doesn’t find it amusing. He pointed out that a 15-year-old boy was allegedly involved and said that whether the victim is male or female, such abuse can leave psychological scars.

The tone taken by Davis seems representative of the care with which many in the media are handling an incredibly sensational story featuring a 47-year-old mother of three  being charged with taking a 15-year-old friend of her son to a Delaware beach house, providing alcohol and engaging him in sexual activity.

“I get that this story is ripe for one liners and jokes,” Davis wrote in an email to the Sun later in the day when asked about his on-air action. “The problem is not the people who joke about it, that's a pretty normal behavior. It's the people who really believe this is OK. We had someone call who said he would high-five his kid. Come on."

Even TMZ is showing restraint. Really.

The website that has been the watchdog of bad behavior by members of the Baltimore Ravens has yet to publish the indictment, which is chock full of lurid details of what Shattuck allegedly did with the boy. The Sun and other Baltimore media outlets have also declined to publish it.

TMZ primarily sees Shattuck through the lens of  “ex-NFL cheerleader,” which is how it refers to her in headlines. It used two images of her in cheerleader poses.

I see nothing wrong with that. She certainly reveled publicly in that persona. The Ravens would probably prefer her former connection to the team not be stressed, but the Ravens can’t win for losing this year on the publicity front, can they?

The dominant image of Shattuck on the TMZ website features her wearing glasses, a fully-buttoned tweed blouse with a crucifix at her throat. It's her booking photo from the Delaware State Police.

The website referred to it as her “Little House on the Prairie school teacher look" and featured that image of her superimposed on the front of the area school the boy attends in one composite.

That’s a little snarky, but again, I see nothing egregious about it – especially when you consider the contrast between that look and some of the images of herself that she has distributed.

Locally, the only thing that gave me pause was a few seconds of a video on WBAL-TV’s website about the indictment.

As reporter Jayne Miller voiced some of the charges, the imagery onscreen was from an exercise video featuring Shattuck.

At the 2:32 mark as Miller is listing charges alleging that Shattuck “performed oral sex” on the boy, the video shows Shattuck doing suggestive hip grinding movements. The imagery continues as Miller lists the allegation that Shattuck told the boy if he wanted to have sex with her he could.

There’s more grinding at the 2:45 mark.

I’m not saying there is any terrible about the images on the video. I hesitate to even call them troubling. But they are definitely questionable and, in my opinion, gratuitous.

Look, let’s be frank. Shattuck has generally been accorded a status and respect by the Baltimore media that she had not really earned as cheerleader, self-styled fitness and lifestyle guru or volunteer for various charities.  My guess is that she was treated that way because she was the wife of the rich and powerful one-time CEO of Constellation Energy, Mayo A. Shattuck.

Now with these lurid accusations, there’s a chance to tear her down as much as she had falsely been built up in the media. And you can look almost high road doing it as you simply recount the nastiest details of the indictment. What she allegedly did is horrible.

This is the kind of story where everything can turn on a dime. And maybe today or tomorrow, the local and national media will start savaging her for what she allegedly did. But so far, it’s kind of encouraging to see so much responsibility and restraint.

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