Review of News12 Phoenix 11-Minute Package on Whitney Lopus Lawsuit in Greg Winslow Case, Plus the National Swim Coach Sex Abuse Scandal

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by Irvin Muchnick


Let’s hope the two-part report last night by Will Pitts and Wendy Halloran of KPNX, Channel 12 in Phoenix, is heard all the way to Washington, D.C. As we have reported, the staff of Congressman George Miller is meeting next Wednesday with USA Swimming and U.S. Olympic Committee officials about a decades-long coach sex abuse problem that seems to be reaching critical mass in the public consciousness.

The News12 package, at, will go a long way toward giving Miller and like-minded legislators the ammunition they need to hold public hearings — the “Olympic brand” be damned. In the coming days, the hits will keep coming from major media, and the cumulative effect should be constructive and hygienic.

Phoenix TV’s 11-minute, 28-second package came in two parts. In Part 1, Pitts revealed that Whitney Lopus, the Arizona swimmer who alleges years of sexual abuse by her club coach Greg Winslow, beginning in her mid-teens, has sued Winslow, USA Swimming, and other entities, and aired excerpts of a powerful on-camera interview with her. (News of the existence of the lawsuit actually had been broken earlier in the day by

In the interview, Lopus was articulate and moving as she described the evolution of Winslow’s advances, her eventual descent into a suicide attempt, and her mission to make her story, an all-too-common one, resonate. Civil lawsuits have proven to be uneven forums for justice in individual cases, but the accretion of them is establishing a national public narrative and shattering the culture of denial. We wish Lopus the very best in her fight, which is also the fight of all of America’s amateur sports parents, whether or not they yet realize it.

In Part 2, Halloran had a somewhat rushed, but effective, overview of the national abuse issue, which wound up focusing on the role of Jill Johnson Chasson, the Phoenix lawyer and former swimmer who, until recently, chaired USA Swimming’s National Board of Review. KPNX showed video clips of “I don’t remembers” in a deposition of Chasson conducted by victims’ attorney Bob Allard (who also is representing Whitney Lopus) as part of a civil suit. This is typical of the stonewalling of swimming officials, male and female, throughout the abuse crisis, and it made Chasson come off especially bad when joined to the information that she is married to one of her former coaches, Mike Chasson, who was also Greg Winslow’s boss at Sun Devil Aquatics when he had his first interactions with Lopus.

(News12 chose not to include what Concussion Inc. reported in April: that the former Jill Johnson, at 15 and 16, also had a relationship with a 19- and 20-year-old coach, John Cadigan, who is the operations manager for the Michael Phelps-Bob Bowman North Baltimore Aquatic Club. The relationship was both blatantly unprofessional and excruciatingly ambiguous — at best — in terms of Maryland statutory rape law.)

I believe the Phoenix report fell short in two respects. One was in its treatment of Katherine Starr, head of the new organization Safe4Athletes. Halloran failed to identify Starr as a former abuse victim herself, which would given her short clip deserved credibility and context.

As someone who has talked a lot with Starr about her objectives for Safe4Athletes, I also think it was unfortunate that her quote about Jill Chasson’s marriage to Mike Chasson was presented in such a way as to personalize what Starr had intended as a larger point about the culture of swimming. Such is the truncated and sometimes intellectually lowest-common-denominator way of TV news.


One more factor bears note. News12 worked on this story for months and it was postponed more than once. Kudos to station management for finally deciding to go with it last night.

According to a reliable source, at one point over the summer a USOC official crossed the line in trying to pressure KPNX to kill the Pitts-Halloran package. The station, an NBC affiliate, was threatened with loss of broadcast rights to the Olympics, which the USOC suggested it could switch to a competing station in the Phoenix market. In truth, this was probably empty bluster, since USOC has multibillion-dollar commitments in its contract with NBC, and the network, in turn, would be obliged to protect the rights of KPNX under their affiliation agreement. But I am convinced that this threat did indeed happen; and since it happened, News12 should have mentioned it as part of its report. With its lobbying of state legislators in California and its recently launched $200,000 public relations offensive on the eve of the talks with Congressman Miller, exposure of USA Swimming’s strong-arm tactics helps complete the picture.

Asked about the USOC threat, Pitts and Halloran declined comment. They referred such questions to news director Mark Casey and the station’s legal counsel. If KPNX has anything to add to the record of this aspect of the controversy, Concussion Inc. will be happy to publish it.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick