If WAFF-TV Had Ethics, You Wouldn’t Know Antoine Dodson

A heinous attack in Huntsville, Ala. has turned into a multimillion dollar empire for Antoine Dodson. But is it right?

I wonder if anyone dressed as Kelly Dodson for Halloween.

You know, Kelly Dodson? The Huntsville, Ala. woman who was saved by her brother, Antoine, after a man broke into her home in the middle of the night and attempted to rape her. Of course, Antoine Dodson has become famous since WAFF-TV reported the story earlier this year:

Dodson’s “career” as a budding viral-video star really took off when the Gregory Brothers and their Auto-Tune The News clip for barelypolitical.com got ahold of the WAFF story, which has received over 37 million views:

The auto-tuned version of Dodson’s interview has since become one of the best-selling singles on iTunes, generating enough revenue for Antoine and Kelly Dodson to move out of the projects. Antoine and the Gregory Brothers even performed at this year’s BET Awards. His viral fame has also led to an endorsement deal with a mobile app called Sex Offender Tracker:

Over the weekend, I saw dozens of people dressed as Antoine Dodson for Halloween. (Antoine even endorsed www.bedintrudercostume.com — the official Antoine Dodson Halloween costume.) His overwhelming popularity makes me only more concerned about WAFF-TV’s sensational editing of the original story, which included Antoine’s hyperbolic, over-the-top rant not because it was informative, but because it was entertaining.

I raised this point to someone at a party the other night.

“These stories are reported all the time,” she said. “Trust me — I’m a journalist. I would’ve included his rant, too.”

No matter how many times I go back and look at the original story, I can’t help but think Antoine’s comments should’ve been edited. If I was in the editing room, I would’ve kept the following (in bold) from the original:

“Well, obviously we have a rapist in Lincoln Park. He’s climbing in your windows. He’s snatching your people up, trying to rape them, so you need to hide your kids, hide your wife and your husband, because they’re raping everyone out here.

“We got your T-shirt, you done left fingerprints and all. You are so dumb. You are really dumb. For real.

“You don’t have to come and confess that you did it. We’re looking for you. We gonna find you. I’m going to letting you know now. So you can run and tell that, homeboy.”

Really, that’s it. We already know the story concerns an attempted rapist who got away. “Raping everyone out here” is factually wrong and could incite unnecessary panic. The threat at the end isn’t really news (nor advisable by legal counsel). The only bit of information Antoine adds to the story concerns the evidence left behind.

But the WAFF-TV editors knew they had something. We live in a viral culture and I doubt anyone from WAFF-TV is surprised Antoine Dodson has become famous overnight. (Although he’s taken viral fame to whole new level.)

Look, it’s easy to feel warm and fuzzy about the story, because in the end, the Dodsons moved away from the projects and (probably) continue to make a living wage of one interview. However, how’s Kelly Dodson? Has she recovered from her traumatic experience, or is she reminded of it everytime she hears her brother’s auto-tuned interview or sees him on the BET Awards or hears “run and tell that, homeboy” or sees kids dressed as Antoine for Halloween? This all stemmed from Kelly being violated, an experience so damaging, some women never fully recover.

It’s good to see that some positives have resulted from the attack. But, I can’t help but feel WAFF-TV got a free pass for showing little in the way of ethics.