Way back in 2009, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews woke up on a morning much like any other to find that a nude video of herself had been taken without her permission or knowledge and posted on the internet. In the time since the video was posted online, Andrews has seen her stalker Michael David Barrett get arrested and released from a correctional facility after spending several years in jail. She’s also relived being stalked over and over again during various litigation, including because of a $75 million suit she filed against her convicted stalker and the hotel group, West End Hotel Partners (the stalking took place at hotels). As part of the litigation, Erin Andrews is now saying that her employer, ESPN, forced her to do an interview about the nude video in order to keep her job. Here’s what she had to say during the trial:
Because there wasn't an arrest, because we didn't know where this happened, my bosses at ESPN told me, 'Before you go back on-air for college football, we need you to give us a sit-down interview.' That was the only way I was going to be allowed back.
During the trial, Erin Andrews sat still, but tearfully explained the ordeal she says she was forced to go through after the video was posted online. For a long time, she says that people were accusatory toward her, assuming that somehow she had been responsible for the video appearing online. Andrews says that ESPN did give her the option of choosing who to do the interview with, although the network pushed Good Morning America, since it airs on ABC (which is under the same umbrella as ESPN). Andrews decided to go with Oprah Winfrey, instead, being very candid with the celebrity interviewer’s creative team about what was happening:
I talked to her producers. I told her I didn't want to do it, but this was the only way I was going to be put back on air.
Per Deadspin, she did the interview, shaking and upset, although the experience doesn’t sound like it was all that great, despite the fact that she also says Oprah and her team were very nice to her.
We went, I wanted nothing to do with it. I was in the office, or her green room, and I was sitting there and I was just bawling at my parents. “It’s Oprah Winfrey, how do you not want to see her?” And I was just freaking out, and I just said “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this. I just want to go back to college football. I don’t want to talk about what happened to me, why can’t I just be normal? Like, why can’t I go back?
Also during the trial, Michael David Barrett detailed how easy it was to find Erin Andrews’ hotel room at the Nashville Marriott. Once there, he talked his way into the room next door to hers and hacksawed through her peephole to take the footage. All in all, once a person’s private life has been intruded on, it’s very difficult to feel normal again. Especially when the people you hope to have in your corner decidedly aren’t.
Nude videos and photos of celebrities have been running around since the internet began, sometimes by choice, but more often than not because of hacks or leaked footage. When this happens, it’s important not to demean the women it happened to, so that everyone can push forward and move past the incident. After all, that’s in everyone's best interests.