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‘Something Happened In The Training Room’: Deborah Norville on Peyton Manning Sexual Assault Case

Deborah Norville has been hosting “Inside Edition” for over 20 years. The veteran anchor and two-time Emmy award winner has traveled the world, interviewed countless big name celebrities and provided the American people with hundreds of different investigative reports. Tonight, Norville and her team dive into a story that has been circling former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning for the last two decades.

Former University of Tennessee trainer Dr. Jamie Naughright accused Manning of sexual assault while she was working at the university back in 1996. Naughright tells her story publicly for the first time tonight to Norville on “Inside Edition.”

CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith talked with Norville about her interview with Dr. Naughright, her journalistic responsibilities and the impact of “Inside Edition.”

DJ Sixsmith: Tonight on Inside Edition, viewers will see Dr. Jamie Naughright speak out publicly for the first time about her sexual assault allegations against former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning stemming from a 1996 incident at the University of Tennessee. What kind of impact do you expect this interview to have?

Deborah Norville: This is the first time that Dr. Jamie Naughright has ever spoken publicly about what she said happened 21 years ago. There’s no question something happened in the training room at the University of Tennessee. The dispute seems to be over what that something was. Dr. Naughright said she was examining Peyton Manning’s foot for a possible injury when she says he dropped his shorts and lowered his naked back side onto her face and his genitalia fell down across her face. She said she was repulsed, she pushed him away and said she was scared. She told me she was intimidated. Peyton Manning has testified under oath in a deposition connected to this incident in which he says that it wasn’t what she described. He said he was “mooning” a teammate for one and a half or two seconds. That is the incident and the aftermath has been something that has dogged Peyton Manning for the last 20 years and continues to make headlines as recently as a year and a half ago when that incident was mentioned in a Title IX lawsuit against the University of Tennessee. It was alleged that the university had fostered a hostile environment toward women that resulted in sexual assaults. That lawsuit was later settled by the University of Tennessee for $2.48 million.

DS: Many women in all different industries have recently publicized their stories of sexual assault and rape. Why did Dr. Naughright want to share her story publicly?

DN: I think for Dr. Naughright, it was a great sense of being unburdened in sharing her story. She was inspired by the legion of women who have accused Harvey Weinstein. She felt inspired to step forward after seeing the bravery of those women. She has been under the restrictions of a non-disclosure agreement for many years after this incident happened. About a year after the incident, she left the University of Tennessee and as a part of her departure, she received a financial settlement and signed an NDA and so did Peyton Manning. Probably we would’ve heard nothing further, except a few years later Archie and Peyton Manning penned a book in which Dr. Naughright was mentioned by name. She was described as being vulgar-mouthed. A particular incident was mentioned when she brought some student athletes to the University of Virginia. The manuscript of that book appeared at her new place of employment, where she was working as an athletic trainer. After her boss read it, she read it and thought it was defamatory. She initiated legal action against the Manning’s, the publisher and the ghost writer. There was a financial settlement and the NDA continued, but the passage stayed in the book.

DS: As a journalist, how do you weigh your responsibilities of treading lightly on a delicate topic like sexual assault while also getting the information the public desires?

DN: You try to be as thorough as humanly possible. You aspire to super human efforts when it comes to that. So, you read every scrap of legal documentation you can find. You try to find as much corroborating information for both sides of the story. Peyton Manning has clearly said that what Dr. Naughright alleges did not happen. He says that it’s a lie. He goes on to say that when the claims were first investigated 21 years ago, that she told a different story. One of the challenges is the detail to which she speaks now, is not noted in any of the official documentation. What is noted is that she feared for her life and that she feared for her job. She actually called a sexual assault crisis hotline the night of the incident. She had been told by her boss not to call the cops or the press. Our job is not to fill in the gaps, our job is to put the facts out there to allow the audience to make whatever judgments they choose to make.

DS: Switching gears now, there is going to be a piece tonight on “Inside Edition” about coffee machine cleanliness. What can viewers expect to learn from this story?

DN: I have to take responsibility for this story. I was literally making a cup of coffee a few weeks ago at our free “Inside Edition” machine and I thought to myself that this coffee machine looks pretty scuzzy. I started cleaning it and was grossed out by how much sludge was coming out on the paper napkins. We do all these stories when we swab hotel rooms to show how dirty they are and I told my team that we need to swab the coffee machine. We swabbed our coffee machine and the bad news is we have E.coli! We swabbed other coffee machines in other offices and they have some nasty stuff too. One place had five different bacteria, which can cause urinary tract infection and pneumonia. Note to self, make your own coffee.

DS: Finally, “Inside Edition” is now in its 30th season. You’re a two-time Emmy Award winner and the show has won numerous awards. Why has the show had so much success?

DN: “Inside Edition” has been in this really unique place of being able to observe the broad picture of what is going on in America and we have the luxury of diving in and reporting on those few things that we think are relevant or interesting to our audience. The evening newscast is obligated to tell you everything important that happened today. We have a different mandate. Our job is to give you some perspective, occasionally weird you out with our investigations and stop and make you think. We’ve been lucky enough to do it for 30 years.

Tonight’s episode of “Inside Edition” can be seen at 7pm EST on CBS.

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