Let’s Talk About Lunsford Media Coverage

Dear Charlottesville Journalists,

Your coverage of Commonwealth Attorney Denise Lunsford’s victimization by a vengeful ex? It’s…it’s not good. I’m being gentle here. As a refresher, prominent Missouri attorney and alcoholic David Cosgrove confessed in a court filing to posting nude photographs of Lunsford online after she broke up with him, and then had the gall to tell the court that he had every right to post those nude photographs, regardless of her wishes. So we have a powerful man publicly sexually humiliating and slut-shaming his victim. The only way that sexual humiliation works is if people know about it. That’s the point.

By writing about this matter in great detail—far more detail than was possibly necessary—you have helped to further Cosgrove’s victimization of Lunsford. When a woman files a restraining order against an abusive ex for the terrible information that he’s broadcasting about her, basically the worst thing that you can do is broadcast that information to way, way more people. And you did exactly that, apparently unquestioningly. You’re precisely the vector that he needed to humiliate her.

Perhaps the gold star for incompetence goes to the unsigned story broadcast by CBS-19. Not content to merely write about the main thrust of the story, y’all went on to write that Cosgrove was also accusing Lunsford of watching “movies” with convicted sexual batterer Chris Dumler, in her home, “with her child present.” This is an accusation made by a man who has engaged in unarguably awful, abusive behavior towards his victim, for the purpose of humiliating her. The most reasonable conclusion to draw is that he’s found precisely the right way to further humiliate her—to accuse her of endangering her child (risking that her child could be taken from her by Child Protective Services) and threaten her employment (for what could be seen as an inappropriate relationship with a criminal). In repeating this claim, CBS-19 let Cosgrove not just humiliate Lunsford sexually, but also make her fear for her child and her career. You folks showed terrible judgment here.

I talked to one reporter today who shared with me a series of late-night, semi-coherent e-mails that she received from Cosgrove last month, e-mails that included some of the photographs in question. (The reporter tells me that only one photograph was nude, and that Lunsford does not appear to know that the photograph is being taken.) The reporter had no idea of who Cosgrove was, but felt that the e-mails “suggest a very drunk, scorned man.” The claims that he made in the e-mails were bizarre, definitely libelous, and I won’t repeat any of them here. The reporter asks Cosgrove why he’s sending these strange e-mails, and he replies: “[t]o afraid f your public official to do do. There is a story or 3 if you do your job and dig.” The reporter replied, simply: “I think you need to put down the bottle of whatever you’re drinking and deal with whatever you’re upset about…” And that was the end of that. Because a responsible reporter knows that there is nothing to be pursued. As attorneys say, any claims that come from this man are fruit of a poisonous tree—nothing that he says can be believed, based on his confessed actions, so he’s best ignored.

Here’s the thing that you need to remember about private sexual matters: they’re private. Sometimes, court filings contain those private details, because they are necessary for the judge to make a decision, and those are inherently public records. But a good journalist knows where to draw the line on how much detail to provide his readers.

Apparently I must remind you that you, too, are public figures. Especially news anchors, who appear in the homes of thousands of local folks every night. I used to live in the building where NBC-29 maintained an apartment for their newest anchors to use, while they got settled. I saw a lot of literal dirty laundry, when I’d encounter these lonely, bleary eyed folks in the building’s laundromat at 1:00 AM. I respected their privacy, as fun as it might have been to post here a photo of their lingerie. Many years ago, I got an e-mail from a young local reporter, distraught after somebody had discovered a long-abandoned webpage where she had written anonymously about her embarrassing sexual fetish. Somebody had connected the dots, figured out who she was, and she needed advice, since she was terrified that she’d lose her job. I assured her I’d do what I could to keep anything about it from becoming public and, as best I know, she got through it OK. Again, private sexual matters are private.

But all isn’t lost! A form of penance is available. You have accidentally tapped into a very real, very serious, widespread problem: revenge porn. None of you bothered to do any actual research before writing your stories, because if you had, you’d have known that right now—this very week, the very day that you broke this story—revenge porn is a very hot topic. See Monday’s New York Times story, or Tuesday’s Slate story. Need the facts? Check out Mary Anne Franks’ FAQ about revenge porn. Copy this sample legislation, paste it into an e-mail, and ask Del. David Toscano, Del. Rob Bell, and Sen. Creigh Deeds if they’ll introduce that bill into January’s General Assembly session. Need some first-person stories? Check out Women Against Revenge Porn, or maybe ask on your Twitter feed whether anybody who has been victimized might want to be interviewed anonymously (anonymously).

There, I’ve almost written the story for you. Do this, say 20 “Hail Mary”s, and then ask Denise Lunsford for forgiveness. You can do it. I know you can.


50 Responses to “Let’s Talk About Lunsford Media Coverage”

  • Charlotte Drummond says:

    Dear Waldo:
    You’re awesome.
    That is all.
    Charlotte and lots of others happy that you got that out there.

  • Sean McCord says:

    Yes, yes, and yes! Just because you choose to report it doesn’t make it news. And if this was happening to anyone other than a semi-public figure, I’d like to think you’d have the sense to leave the story alone. But because of her *job*, Ms Lunsford has to deal with this awful incident in public. Shame on all of the local news outlets who think that this is a story.

  • vickie says:

    Proud to call you friend

  • jules says:

    Right on waldo!!!!!

  • Jennifer Brecht says:

    Nicely said, Waldo.

  • I’ve made a small correction that I want to document here. I wrote that, in the only nude photograph, “Lunsford appears to be sleeping.” I have no idea of where I got that from. In fact, the reporter in question reminds me, I am wrong. Instead, the photo is taken of her from behind, blurrily, from a distance. So I have changed that clause to read that “Lunsford does not appear to know that the photograph is being taken,” which is the real point here. My apologies.

  • Greg says:

    Thank you! This response could also apply to the media and its complete re-telling of lies by Republicans around health care, the budget, the debt, etc. Chuck Todd of MSNBC even said it was not his job to correct falsehoods, just report them. Huh???

  • karen from Charlottesville says:

    Thank you Waldo. This whole thing is salacious and creepy.

  • Webster 52 says:

    Come on now. This woman humiliates people in the media all the time. Now she is a victim of it?

  • FairyGodMother says:

    Thank you Waldo!

  • Vicky says:

    Excellent article!! The local coverage of this story is appalling. To further victimize Ms. Lunsford the way they have is inexcusable. I’m glad a reporter finally called them out and stood up for the victim in this case. Thank you!

  • tina says:

    Well said, Waldo! I don’t know why this was even news. She is the victim of a very bad man and now victimized by the media as well.

  • Bob Gibson says:

    Good discussion for reporters to have! It is so easy to smear a public official when a spurned former partner has photos and social media and the desire to be hurtful.

  • Michael says:


    Thank you for that insightful and amazing recount of the news coverage of this public servant. Ms. Lunsford nor her family deserve this type of ridcule. Henry Graff to be named out personally though needs to know that his reporting of the incident was especially distrubing and unprofessional. Typical Graff reporting though, no wonder he is still here in Charlottesville.

  • Come on now. This woman humiliates people in the media all the time. Now she is a victim of it?

    [citation needed]

  • Troy Headrick says:

    Dude. Well done. Very well done. Perfect, in fact.

  • Just accepting your deeply dubious premise for a moment, Webster 52, I’m just bowled over by the notion that somebody can’t simultaneously be both a victim of one thing and guilty of another. If I called some random person an asshole, and in then in an unrelated matter you entirely wrongly had my son seized by Child Protective Services, posted nude photos of me online, and ruined my career, then you’re not at fault, and just I got what’s coming to me? Is that seriously your claim here?

  • Mark says:

    This is a jilted ex-lover, nothing more, and I am sad that our usually conservative TV channels chose to report it.

  • Cathy says:

    Woooooohoooooo! Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it!

  • Delia says:

    Thanks, Waldo!

  • local reader says:

    Thanks – well said and I said it aloud as I read the DP story and couldn’t believe their coverage. I wish more people read your story please send it as a letter to editor.
    thanks again – amen

  • danpri says:

    Yeah, well it is local journalism which pretty much means sad. No one, local or national seems able to simply produce info without an eye to ratings or personal impact. The days of quantifiable, observable, behavioral reporting without impacting bias (which has happened on this blog as well…) that allows the reader to make a non influenced judgement is long gone.

    The pandering of the Spanish-American war and Hearst is alive and well…

  • Bill Marshall says:

    Dude, you are simply WRONG. This is not about anything “sexual” this is about a politician trying to save her backside. You are siding with her because she is a woman. Too bad for her. She wanted to compete in a mans world well let her take her lumps just like so many men before her. (Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner etc ) she made bad choices and those choices are costing her. The public has the right to know anything and everything that someone wants to LEGALLY share. These events show questionable judgment at best. The Dumler connection is certainly newsworthy.

    As for the other Journalists exploiting her escapades for their own ratings well they do that all day every day to plenty of innocent people caught up in the mix. (watch the movie “Absence of Malice”)

    When Newscasters get “caught” they will be exposed, and they should NOT hide news or give someone a pass because they are worried they may get caught themselves. They would be hypocrites. Should an alcoholic newscaster not cover drunk drivers? How silly.

    Mrs Lunsford Told the Board of Supervisors to MYOB when they asked about the rude but legal traffic checkpoints on Rio Rd, claiming that she had the right to do so. Well turnabout is fair play and this guy from out of town has the “LEGAL RIGHT” to show the world what she looks like naked. While it may be more uncomfortable than being subject to interrogation from a cop for no reason, it is legal nonetheless. Perhaps she should think about that the next time she wants to snub the populace.

  • ?!?! says:

    You know how sometimes you can get swallowed up in a long, tedious conversation with someone and you’re thinking to yourself…dear gosh…please let this conversation end because this person is not real intelligent and then you walk away kicking yourself for listening to someone yammer on and on and on with their insignificant babble just blaring their ignorance out loud…but you are too polite to stop the conversation so you politely nod and finally it ends and you walk away and you think to yourself WHEW…that was awful and painful. AND THEN there are people who say things like “man’s world” and save you all sorts of trouble!

  • perlogik says:

    Bill Marshall did you really get all James Brown on us and talk about “She wanted to compete in a mans world”? She’s not a Pro Football player she’s a commonwealth attorney. Can you truly be so clueless? Well at least your troll card got shown early and I didn’t have to read the rest of your screed after that.

  • Bil Marshall says:

    She is an elected official and as such subject to the same scrutiny as man in a similar circumstance. If a man was exposed in a crazy relationship and a woman was going after him with some sort of revenge vengeance I doubt that this article would have even been written. Just because her vengeance may not have been naked pictures it may have been just as salacious and hurtful. The argument here is that she should be left alone because women are more often victims of revenge porn. Too bad, you go to war with the weapons you have. She can accuse him of being bisexual or impotent and that would be her most effective “revenge” option and he would be the one cowering in embarrassment.
    Women have fought hard to enter into the male workplace and then when they find out its not all golf outings and three martini lunches they want to be protected from the reality of public scrutiny. Again too bad. If you can’t stand the heat go back to the kitchen.

    She screwed up. She then tried to use the legal system to prevent him from exercising his legal rights to be a jerk. She showed poor judgment in choosing that avenue. She should have held her nose and made a deal like so many of the semi innocent people she prosecutes do with her.

    Hopefully this is a learning experience for her and will be a one time problem.

  • the boss of me says:

    ” If a man was exposed in a crazy relationship and a woman was going after him with some sort of revenge vengeance I doubt that this article would have even been written.”

    Well Bill, isn’t that pretty much what you repeatedly suggested was likely the real story behind the accusations against Chris Dumler? That seems to have made the news.

    “The argument here is that she should be left alone because women are more often victims of revenge porn.”

    Can you read? That argument hasn’t been made by anyone on this page.

    “Women have fought hard to enter into the male workplace and then when they find out its not all golf outings and three martini lunches they want to be protected from the reality of public scrutiny.”

    I’ve worked in mostly male workplaces for many years now, and not once have any nude pictures of me been posted on the internet. I’m not seeing the connection.

    “She screwed up. She then tried to use the legal system to prevent him from exercising his legal rights to be a jerk.”

    Legal right to secretly take pictures in a setting where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, publish those pictures without a release from the person in them, and use them in a campaign the goal of which is to defame that very person? Where is this that you think the law says that’s ok?

    And best of all: “She can accuse him of being bisexual or impotent and that would be her most effective “revenge” option and he would be the one cowering in embarrassment.”

    All I can think of in response to that is MY GOD YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE! Do you ever actually have to deal with other people in your life?

  • Bill Marshall says:

    boss of me…

    I was all for the public mudslinging against chris dumler… I wanted his fate decided the same as Lunsfords … at the ballot box. so I am not sure what you are saying… sorry..

    My defense was always for the rule of law.. the same as this case… dumler deserved to be publicly shamed.. just not removed from office when the law was on his side (like was proven in court)

    If there are naked pictures of you and you tick off the wrong person there is no law stopping them from passing them out so long as they were legally taken. Especially if you emailed them to him. If you want to respond by “recalling” his confession of being gay or a transvestite to use in negotiations that is just good old fashion horse trading. The courts are not the place for this situation.

    As to the legality of taking them if you send one in an email and then get naked in someone elses bedroom you are pretty much giving up your rights to make the claim. There could be circumstance where this is illegal but this ain’t one.

    as for me being an asshole… you may be right.. but if she had chosen to take the route that I spoke of this probably would have gone away by now. This clown might have sobered up enough to realize that her spreading rumors about his “midnight confessions” may just be a trump card he didn’t want played.

    Its called the real world and it happens everyday.

    Do you think that she doesn’t make veiled threats everyday to criminals to get them to deal her way? You think she never threatened to arrest a grandmother, sieze a parents car or threaten to charge a mother with crime if she didn’t talk and have her kids end up in foster care?

    Mother Theresa she ain’t

    I would bet she has already run my background just in case she ever gets a shot at me.

    Let her take her lumps… let the press report it and let the populace decide whether her bad personal choices are reflective of her decision making in office.

    There is a reasonable debate to be had over whether her using the law in this way is an abuse of the system or not and if she will abuse the system in Missouri to get her way what’s to say she won’t abuse it here?

    but you can still see her as a hapless victim who did nothing to deserve the public scrutiny. Your the one who said it never happened to you. Is that because you have made smarter choices?

  • belmont, yo. says:

    Ah Bill. Everyone may be freaking out about your steadfastly anachronistic world view, but hey, I say this board needs more diversity. And if you can pull out quotes like…

    “It is my opinion that it is society who should call out irresponsible skanks out for getting knocked up on the hood of an el camino.”

    …in a thread about the Ryan budget plan (Hook, Oct 2012), well hey, the skies the limit on what you can do here. Everyone here, generally, is way too reasonable. In fact, with the hook shutting down I imagine we’ll be seeing more of you. I am so excited I can barely hold the aspirin between my knees. Shine on you crazy old diamond.

  • Gail says:

    Oh Bill, you make me feel like a young thing with your straight out of 1959 world view.
    Since Ms. Lunsford is still not Mr.Camblos, I do hope she has what it takes to stick out this nasty publicity.

  • Christian says:

    Bill – You’ve got it wrong… it’s a woman’s world now! Witness the comments here. Well at least in the US of A…
    I’ve had dealings with Lunsford and I like her from what I could see. But STOP with the crying me a river to protect women already! They’ve got us by the balls and Gail… it ain’t 1959 no more! “Think about it!” (quip from ‘Falling Down’, Michael Douglas, 1993)

  • Bill, I understand that The Hook’s is gone, and you need a new place to be an asshole. But unlike The Hook, I’m just a guy running a website for fun, so I don’t actually give a shit if you like me. So if you continue trolling—and I’m 90% sure that’s what you’re doing here—I’m just gonna block you, because it prevents people from having useful discussions, and instead gets people to waste time talking about what an asshat you are. And if you’re not trolling—if you’re actually this much of an asshole, as in you seriously walk around saying things like this and somehow haven’t been beaten to death—then really, you have much bigger problems then that you’re not allowed to post comments on some guy’s website.

    And “Christian” can confirm that I take this seriously. See, I pretend that I don’t know that Christian is “Jogger” under a new alias, and he’s pretending that he doesn’t know that I used to work for his company when it was much smaller, and I still know his bosses, who would surely want to know how much time he spends commenting from work. This is something that I specifically warned him about, if he continued trolling cvillenews.com from work, since I’d be forced to block his employer from the site. And that’s basically kept things civil from him for the past few years. Because, hey, “you go to war with the weapons you have,” right?

    So, Bill, let’s just save each other a lot of trouble, eh? Go sell crazy someplace else—we’re all stocked up here.

  • the boss of me says:

    Waldo, I just drew a little hand with its thumb up on my screen so I could click it for your last comment.

  • Christian says:

    My first name is indeed Christian. You have my email, which provides you CLEARLY with my last name. I haven’t commented on this site for maybe a year now. Perhaps even 2!
    Jogger? Huh? You know my work? I doubt it. You are confused.
    So… Waldo… what gets you so pissed about my comment?

  • Bill Marshall says:


    Your inability to handle diversity of opinion makes you the asshole. Since this is your sandbox I have no problems staying out of it.

  • belmont, yo. says:

    Damn, Waldo got his pimp hand out and went all pulp fiction.

    I better get my act together.

  • ?!?! says:

    Bill Marshall believes that victims of stalking and harassment should be publically re-victimized, no matter if the information being used to re-victimize the victim is accurate or not, but especially if that victim is a woman working in a “man’s world” – got it! He also believes that Ms. Lunsford is right now looking him up on some database used to hone in on THE one and only Bill Marshall to target him….because let’s face it …she HAS to care about Bill Marshall’s opinions…. …they are so profound- right? …..– got it, got it, got it! I’ve read the textbook definition of malignant narcissism – has anyone else? WHAT A JOKE THIS GUY IS!!!!

  • danpri says:

    Okay now. As the general right wing old guy I have to ask the question, knowing I open myself up to a response from Yo that I will not understand…as usual.

    What is the difference between asshat and asshole? Is he wearing himself as a hat? This is about the time I stop talking- when my kids and grandkids start saying stuff that makes no sense to me, much like my idea of anyone watching Jersey Shore or the Kardouchians.

    I do like the revenge porn law just signed on in California. At first I thought the best consequence would be to make the guy pose in the same way, but that idea may not be a Weiner.

  • Gerry says:

    danpri, from a quick google search:

    A person, of either gender, whose behavior displays such ignorance/obnoxiousness that you would like to make them wear their own ass as a hat.
    Usage: “Can you believe that my boss is making me stay until 9 pm on a Friday!?” “What an asshat.”

    someone being arrogant, rude, obnoxious, or just a total dickhead….
    “Sean is the biggest asshole I’ve ever met in my life!”

  • Claire says:

    So, Bill Marshall brags that he’ll have not problem staying out of the sandbox, and Christian/Jogger will likely not be back. Two birds with one post.

    “Want to know” is the new “need to know”; salacious tidbits are easy enough to find, easy to publish, and draw readers like flies to honey. Journalism used to be a skilled profession. These people just hold microphones and read simple sentences.

  • the boss of me says:

    Claire, I don’t recall local television every having employed journalists of the type you describe. By that I mean local anywhere I’ve ever lived or visited.

  • Frankly Pseudo says:

    “I’ve worked in mostly male workplaces for many years now, and not once have any nude pictures of me been posted on the internet. I’m not seeing the connection.”

    Oh my, English taking another beating here too.

  • Mark says:

    Waldo, sounds like you are going to take your ball and go home if someone disagrees with you. Isn’t that diversity? Is it intellectually honest?
    Bill Marshall is arguing that women shouldn’t get special legal treatment…”special” meaning better than a man would get. You can disagree with him and his lack of tact, but he makes a valid argument. I think you’d be better served refuting the argument than threatening to electronically kick him off…but it’s your website.
    Many of us are looking for a new news source with the hook’s sad demise, as well as an outlet for commenting on the news.

  • Gerry says:

    i know this is getting off subject, but considering the tone of some of the comments on the last Hook story of Eugene Williams I hope this does not become the new place for those folks to express their views.

  • the boss of me says:

    Gerry, It seems the vast majority (hundreds at least) of the ridiculous comments that followed many of the Hook’s recent articles were the work of one apparently mentally ill person. I’m pretty confident that Waldo isn’t going to allow that and I can’t figure out why the Hook would. I don’t expect to see him or the Hook/Cavalier Daily resident idiot who rants about abortions andUVA coverups polluting the commentary here.

  • Gail says:

    I was interested to see that California has just made revenge porn illegal- hope that other states will do likewise.
    I don’t understand the male/female issue here- this is wrong no matter who does it just as any domestic abuse is wrong whatever the gender of the perpetrator. In fact, though men are the victims much less frequently than women, men may have a harder time seeking and obtaining help in such situations than women do.

    And Waldo, of course you are right to stop the “invasion”- I stopped reading most Hook commentary years ago so didn’t catch on quickly to what was going on.

  • Barbara Myer says:

    OK, wildly back ON topic (sorry about that digressers): I was appalled by this coverage, across many media outlets, because there had been a gubernatorial debate the evening before & the ‘news’ outlets chose to spotlight THIS instead, indeed solely, with hardly any mention of the debate. Indeed, usually no mention of the debate because, you know, some other news competitor carried the debate and they can’t, you know, inform you if it sends you to someone else’s website for details.

    Someone else had the real news, we linked & emphasized the nude pix. Well done. NOT.

  • belmont, yo. says:

    Someone sounds shocked that prurient stories get top billing in the 24 hour news cycle. Shall I fetch your fainting couch?

    Besides, the gubernatorial debate was probably all about oral sex anyway, so, six of one…

    /’digressers’? really?

  • Barbara Myer says:


    Sorry, less than pithy original post. And, of course, oral sex could have been augmented with vaginal wands, if we were truly going for the fainting couch.

    Not fainting: pissed off. Revenge porn, even against a prosecutor (you know that ‘girl’ in a ‘man’s’ world, wimp that she is: failing to ‘man up” like Weiner when he lied about being done with sexting pictures of his own weiner or Spitzer hiring prostitutes which is SO the equivalent of having naked pix taken unknown & posted later by a pissed off double-ex) is simply not as important as a gubentorial debate. Yet that’s what the DP & NBC 29 went with for lead stories, and, unfortunately, yes, they are our primary local outlets. And neither of them had the debate as a secondary story for at least 36 hours.

    Again, not fainting: pissed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    /too many exclamation points, sorry, but I’m still really pissed!

    /Also scared: my 17-year-old was willing to buy Mark Obenshain because his daughter is in his commmercials. The AG has nothing to do with creating jobs (about which you hear the most in his commercials) and my 17-year-old was shocked — shocked — to discover MO thought requiring women to report miscarriages within 24 hours was A GOOD IDEA. At least when I let my 17-year-old know that bit of MO proposed legislation, she had paid enough attention in health class to know that most miscarriages aren’t even observed by the women who have them because they happen so early. How, exactly, would MO would monitor that?

  • Christian says:

    How people get sexual satisfaction has absolutely nothing to do with how effective they are in office. What is often more concerning is if they don’t get any or enough. Think about it…

    The only reason these stories stir up such a hornet’s nest is because Americans are still puritanical at the core. No one can really know the back story in this case. Is Cosgrove a jerk who gets satisfaction from trying to ruin her career or is she a bitch that’s used and abused him? Or maybe that was their ‘thing’ and he ain’t done with it? Pretending you actually know only emphasizes your own bias. And taking sides purely on gender only reveals your own limitations. Regardless, it’s none of our business.

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