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Rape Victim ‘Horrified’ By ‘Dateline’ Segment

John Carmody The Washington Post

Producers at NBC News are standing behind tonight’s edition of “Dateline,” which has been harshly criticized by rape victim Karen Pomer, whose ordeal on the night of the O.J. Simpson trial verdict in October 1995 is the subject of the full hour.

Pomer, a Santa Monica, Calif., media consultant and political activist, was interviewed by Maria Shriver, and her narration is heard throughout the first two segments of the program, according to producer Claudia Pryor.

In a letter to Pryor last week, Pomer said she was “horrified” by what she saw on a review copy of the upcoming broadcast: “The segment was so inflammatory, misleading, distorted and inaccurate that I feel revictimized all over again.”

She told Pryor, “I am publicly disassociating myself from ‘Screams in the Night’ because it fans the flames of racism in this country, especially in the racially polarized Los Angeles area.”

Pomer complained of four aspects of the broadcast in her letter:

The use of a police composite that she was never shown.

Playing the “race card” by opening the show with reaction to the Simpson verdict.

“Dishonestly portraying me as a participant in a candlelight vigil protesting the O.J. Simpson verdict.” (Pomer says she only accompanied a reporter friend who was covering the rally.)

Depicting her “as a scared, tentative victim - angry at neighbors who didn’t let me in their homes the night I was screaming rape and taking my anger out instead on the African American police chief.”

“I’m appalled that she’d think I wouldn’t be sensitive to the race issue,” said Pryor, who is African American. “She’s accused us of playing the race card, but we introduce the O.J. Simpson story only as she does.”

At one point in her six-hour ordeal with the rapist, Pomer told Shriver, she survived by getting the rapist to talk, bringing up the Simpson verdict and his admission he was mad at people who were mad Simpson got off. She subsequently told him she was married to an African American and showed the rapist a picture of their daughter.

“She brought the subject up as she related the course of events; I don’t make it any more than it was,” Pryor said.

“I think she’s extremely angry with me and with NBC because while we covered her heroism in surviving, her struggle with the Santa Monica Police Department - which has resulted in changes, by the way - she doesn’t think we made the rapist sympathetic enough. She’s saying we’re ‘Willie Horton-izing’ him.

“I just read the letter today,” Pryor said. “But Pomer called me last week and screamed at me, ‘I can no longer hold up my head in South Central.’ “No one has tampered with her words. Unfortunately, she saw a review tape and missed about 20 minutes of the introduction and ‘tags’ in the finished product and has drawn a lot of wrong conclusions.”

Added “Dateline” executive producer Neal Shapiro: “I think this is the voice of an angry political activist who is sore because her viewpoint isn’t reflected in every frame … She made charges about things concerning the police we just couldn’t verify. We stand completely behind it.”

Pomer said any suggestion she was sympathetic to the rapist, who is still at large, is “most disgusting. My insides were torn up by this man; he held a gun to my head for six hours.

“This is tabloid journalism at its worst,” she said. “And if they can’t corroborate what I told them, then they’re lousy journalists.”

Pomer, producer of a documentary on the MOVE organization in Philadelphia and a publicist “working to free Mumia Abu Jamal, the award-winning journalist on death row,” said she is considering holding a news conference to “tell my story” of an activist who has “fought all her life for causes and then fought for herself.”