Mike Tyson said on Fox’s “The Pulse” that he wishes he raped Desiree Washington — and her mother — when he had the chance in 1991. In the glare of the media lights, his rhetoric appears to get progressively more vile and inhuman. To the naked eye, Tyson is becoming the personification of Bigger Thomas, the amiable but painfully stupid center of Richard Wright’s American classic, Native Son. Once loved, he became a suspect in a heartbeat. His kindly, thick nature put him in a situation gone bad that got worse still, until he was in fact too guilty for anyone to save. But upon talking a closer look at the substance of Tyson’s comments, we see an angry street guy without a lot of media savvy. Or maybe too much for his own good.
Tyson’s comments come as new evidence suggests that important testimony was suppressed at his 1991 rape trial. According to “The Pulse,” witnesses say Washington was all over Mike, and had a history of claiming rape after consensual sex. This was critical evidence that a jury never heard. Quietly, it doesn’t take Columbo to figure out that church girls in nightgowns aren’t in hotel rooms with prize fighters in the a.m. hours looking for a bible study, and that needs to be said. Fact is, no one knows what happened in that hotel room on the night in question. But if this new information has any veracity, Tyson may have been denied a fair hearing that included all of the facts, and he will be called a rapist for the rest of his life. The context for his quote has been grossly underreported in the rush to demonize him, and the media owe Mike an apology. Sure, he should have never said that he regrets not raping Washington, but constant recrimination would cause any man’s psyche to buckle. Sadly, Tyson’s outrageous PR approach has made him the target of media exploitation.
The media tease Tyson like a vicious dog, only to watch him jump and bark viciously, chewing at his own tail in frustration. But in fairness, he often behaves like a child that needs that kind of attention. By all accounts, Tyson knows how to work the press, and his antics seem to be a mix of genuine mental dysfunction and a calculated ploy to play center-stage in the theatre of the ridiculous: to feed our insatiable need for opprobrium, our need to watch a human being self-destruct. He may not be ill by any clinical definition, but something is clearly wrong with Mike Tyson. The best medicine for his ailment would be media deprivation, if they could turn away from his macabre devolution. But we demand to watch him melt away and become less and less human before our eyes.
Of course Tyson doesn’t wish he raped Washington. This reckless comment is a media ploy, hyperbole that Mike should have kept to himself. In context, his words reveal more frustration than criminal intent. Tyson wishes you would listen to his pain, and adds this lament to a life full of wishes and regrets. He is eating himself alive, and the media are only too happy to watch.
Tyson came out of jail perhaps more irrational than he went in, and he wouldn’t be the first person to go to jail slightly off-kilter only to emerge completely unhinged. Maybe a new trial would give him peace. Maybe not. But in any event, Tyson isn’t an animal or side-show attraction. He is still a man — a man who is fast becoming less a boxer than the sum of his apparent psychosis. It’s hard to know how his story will proceed without a disastrous end.
Wondering what Mike will say next is fine sport, but it isn’t funny anymore. The media should avert the cameras long enough for someone to come to his aid before the inevitable implosion that will reduce this troubled man to dust.
I hope someone loves Mike Tyson enough to save him. Surely, someone must love him.