It’s time to revisit the infamous Erin Andrews nude video scandal through the lens of the ongoing #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. The explosive scandal surrounding the Fox sports reporter has been a turbulent roller coaster ride bursting with naked pics on the Internet, lawsuits, public discussions, theories and millions of dollars in damages.
The Erin Andrews peephole scandal, which is still one of the most talked-about topics whenever the subject of invasion of privacy comes up, is very much akin to the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal. The outpouring of sexual harassment and assault allegations, which have been grabbing national headlines since October 2017, didn’t just reveal the existence of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior, it underscored how serious and overlooked they had become.
Just like the problem of sexual harassment, the issue of visual abuse and invasion of privacy has been one of the most ignored topics in America for decades. We live in a world that normalizes nude pic and celeb sex tape leaks. And yet, when it happens to us—when we become the victims—only then do we realize just how traumatizing invasion of privacy really is, whether you’re famous or not.
Radar takes you through the history of the Erin Andrews scandal to give you a better understanding of how much damage invasion of privacy can do—once nude video is leaked online, it's there forever.
#MeToo: Invasion of privacy is no joke, too
The worst part about invasion of privacy during the Internet era is that once your naked pics, nude videos or sex tapes leak online, they get an eternal lifespan and become unerasable. As many victims of The Fappening (or Celebgate), the infamous iCloud leak of nude pics that included Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kaley Cuoco, may know, naked photos on the Internet are like a viral infection that spreads regardless of what you do.
Lawsuits attract more public attention. A scandal evokes the public’s interest. And that’s how even more people keep searching for celeb nude pics or X-rated videos. Lawyers keep trying to remove those private images and footages from websites, but they get re-uploaded over and over again, because if at least one person downloaded it on their computer, these pics and vids will be circulating forever.
Andrews learned it the hard way. Unlike Kim Kardashian, who many believe used the infamous sex tape scandal as a trampoline to rise to stardom, Andrews didn’t film herself naked as a “get famous” stunt. The sports reporter unwittingly became one of the most searched celebrity on Google (and Pornhub) after she was secretly filmed naked in a hotel room.
In a nutshell, how did this happen?
The peephole scandal started at a Marriott hotel in Nashville when Erin Andrews was covering a Vanderbilt football game in September 2008.
Her stalker, Michael David Barrett, modified a peephole on her hotel room door, and recorded her completely nude through the peephole for nearly five minutes. As explained by the stalker during a long-running trial, the only reason he picked the Fox Sports reporter and co-host of Dancing With the Stars was that he saw her name trending on Yahoo at the time.
Meaning: anyone can become a victim of invasion of privacy when they get popular enough to be trending on Yahoo, Google or Twitter. Even though Andrews eventually won the lawsuit and was awarded $55 million in the highly-publicized civil trial, stills of the peephole video can still be seen on various websites on the Internet.
Andrews may have won the battle, but there is no way to win a war on the battleground of the Internet.
Erin Andrews nude video in numbers
Back in 2016, when the popularity of the peephole video reached its peak in the wake of Andrews’ court battle against the stalker and the Marriott hotel, it was estimated that the footage had been viewed by about 17 million people.
Furthermore, there had been more than 300 million searches for the Eric Andrews peephole video, and it was estimated that about 1.5 people were watching the video every minute.
Since the civil trial wrapped in 2016, the popularity of the video has gone from boom to blah, as Andrews has been flying under the radar. A rule of thumb is that when there’s a nude video or naked pics of you on the Internet, they resurface and go viral whenever you appear in the news. Basically, it’s a viscous cycle.
However, the infamous peephole video can still be found on some porn sites.
Who is Erin Andrews?
Since Andrews’ career gained momentum after the infamous nude video, quite a few people believe that the sports reporter could be behind the creation and leak of the tape to get famous (and to collect an enormous amount of money in damages).
Needless to say, Andrews’ career reached its highest levels since the peephole video leaked online. Before the nude vid scandal, Andrews had been an in-game reporter for ESPN’s National Hockey League telecasts since 2004.
More than a year after the video started making rounds on the Internet, Andrews appeared on Dancing With the Stars starring with Latin-ballroom dance champion Maksim Chmerkovskiy. The duo finished in third place in 2010.
In 2012, the reporter quit ESPN and was hired by Fox Sports, where she was employed as a sideline reporter covering baseball, football and NASCAR broadcasts. In 2014, Andrews reached a new milestone in her career by becoming Fox’s top sideline reporter for the network’s NFL broadcasts. That same year, Andrews also became a co-host of Dancing With the Stars.
Who is the creepy stalker who filmed Andrews?
Barrett was an insurance company executive based in Chicago, but was fired after the scandal made headlines. The stalker was reportedly traveling around the United States when he booked the hotel room next to Andrews in the Marriott hotel in September 2008.
Barrett, a 47-year-old divorced father at the time, hacksawed a peephole on Andrews’ hotel room, which was in an alcove off a main hallway. The stalker videotaped Andrews for nearly 5 minutes while she was inside her room completely naked.
Then, Barrett contacted gossip websites to sell the peephole recording. After his failed attempt to sell the exclusive video, he posted the footage online. At first, people didn’t believe it was Andrews in the video, but rumors about the existence of the video featuring Erin Andrews nude spread like wildfire.
In 2009, Andrews discovered the footage and was traumatized by the discovery. Andrews went straight to the Nashville police to report the incident. The police managed to find the stalker within several months. In December 2009, Barrett was taken into custody and charged with interstate stalking for videotaping Andrews, distributing the footage online and trying to sell it to websites.
The divorced father pled guilty to the interstate stalking charge and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in federal prison. He was also registered as a sex offender. Furthermore, Barrett pled guilty to stalking the reporter at three different hotels.
After serving 30 months in federal prison, Andrews’ stalker was released in 2012, and filed for bankruptcy with debts reaching nearly $160,000.
Erin Andrews vs the stalker: civil trial
In October 2015, Andrews filed a civil lawsuit against both Barrett and the Marriott hotel for $75 million.
On February 23, 2016, the civil trial commenced. In the suit, the reporter accused the owner and management company of the hotel of negligence. Barrett never appeared in person at the trial.
Andrews alleged that the peephole video would have never been recorded had the hotel and its staff not been negligent when: revealing to the stalker that Andrews was staying at that hotel, telling him her room number, and allowing him to be put in the room next to hers. The jury accepted the reporter’s contention.
The Marriott hotel’s attorneys fought tooth and nail to avoid responsibility for the incident. Attorneys for the hotel said the nude video featuring Andrews was solely Barrett’s fault. In its defense, the hotel also pointed out that the fact that Andrews’ career went uphill after the peephole footage leak showed that the reporter did not suffer permanent damage and distress. The hotel’s contention only had a small effect on the ruling, as instead of $75 million, Andrews was awarded $55 million.
During the trial, Andrews couldn’t hold back the tears when talking about the devastating damage the peephole video did to her. The reporter, who tearfully testified on the stand, said Barrett’s imprisonment did not make the suffering go away.
Andrews said during the trial that she was humiliated and shamed, and continued to suffer because people were watching the nude video non-stop. At one point of the trial, Andrews had to walk out of the courtroom with tears in her eyes when the panel of jurors reviewed the infamous peephole video.
In his videotaped deposition during the civil trial, Barrett claimed he was solely responsible for the incident. The stalker claimed that he had correctly guessed Andrews would be staying at that hotel for a local football game in Nashville. Then, the stalker claimed he had used an in-house employee phone to find out Andrews’ room number and book the room next to hers.
However, attorneys for Andrews argued that Barrett was trying to take full responsibility because he didn’t want the reporter to collect additional millions of dollars in damages that would be assigned to the Marriott hotel.
As a result, the jury held Barrett responsible for 51 percent of $55 million in damages, and the hotel was found responsible for 49 percent of the damages ($28 million and $27 million respectively).
More than a year after winning the highly-publicized lawsuit, Andrews revealed the hardest part of watching the infamous peephole footage. Speaking to Megyn Kelly during a NBC talk show, Andrews recalled watching the unsettling video.
“One of the videos we had to watch, you can hear him breathing in it,” Andrews told Kelly. “You can also hear people behind him walking, which is also disgusting.”
What do Internet users say about the video?
The peephole video featuring Erin Andrews was met with mixed reactions. Some Internet users expressed their sympathy and refused to even look at the stills showing naked Andrews. Others, meanwhile, didn’t miss out on the opportunity to take a peek at the scandalous video.
There were also those who expressed their disappointment over the footage, saying that they expected more from it. Some blasted the stalker for the blurry and low quality of the recording (after all, it was 2008, back when an iPhone wasn’t much of a thing). Other users who got their hands on the peephole video complained that Andrews didn’t do anything sexual in the footage.
Online sexual harassment can be just as serious as physical harassment
In the digital age, sexual harassment has been prevalent online: coerced sexting, unwanted sexual advances, online stalking, slut-shaming, revenge porn...you name it. Unfortunately, research on the matter is very limited. A 2017 survey by Pew Research revealed that 21 percent of women ages 18 to 29 reported being sexually harassed online. Moreover, 53 percent of female respondents in the same age group said they had received unsolicited explicit images from men.
However, this survey may not reflect the real problem of online sexual harassment, as pretty much all women face online sexual harassment in one form of another. Regardless of what social media platform you use—Instagram, Twitter, Facebook—digital harassment has become a normalized part of our lives. But it shouldn't be this way. Clearly, online sexual harassment should be part of the #metoo movement, well, too.
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