A reasonable response would have been that since PETA produced the video that alleges "abuse and mistreatment" of thoroughbreds among other offenses, it should be ignored. After all, a PETA video could have no credibility but could only be propaganda created for no other purpose than traducing the sport and its competitors. But it's too late for a reasonable response, and the now-famous video is too outrageous, too odious and too vile to ignore.
The New York Times, not surprisingly since it habitually dives for every line PETA tosses into the water, was the first to bite; the newspaper allowed itself to be used as a sort of legitimizer for a video that's so deceptive in its distortions it would have been admired by the greatest of propaganda ministers. Various media then picked up the story, and as often happens, herd instinct took over. New York and Kentucky promised there would be investigations. And citing those pending investigations, the Hall of Fame, which at this point could do nothing else, tabled the nomination of trainer Steve Asmussen.
So four months of furtive slinking around yielded just nine minutes and 29 seconds of video?
PETA, of course, depends for financing on its ability to incite the small minded into a paroxysm of donating. And the video, thanks to an assist from the Times, will no doubt accomplish just that with its sensational allegations of mistreatment, tossed not just at Asmussen and his top assistant, Scott Blasi, but at the entire horse industry. Given exclusive access, the Times reported that the video "showed widespread mistreatment of horses." But does it really?
The video is supposedly the work of an undercover investigator who worked as a hot walker for Asmussen for four months in 2013. And so four months of furtive slinking around yielded just nine minutes and 29 seconds of video? That's all? Who among us wouldn't be thrilled if the accumulation of his bad moments added up to less than 2½ minutes a month?
Actually, the video shows no abuse or mistreatment of horses. Nobody strikes a horse or hurts a horse. Nothing illegal takes place. For the most part, the video shows horses receiving injections, being scoped and examined. It shows, in other words, rather ordinary treatment and nothing sinister. Only somebody who looks with his preconceptions and not his eyes, somebody who gullibly believes -- or desperately wants to believe -- every word from the voiced-over narrator, could mistake this treatment for mistreatment.
The narrator says: "Death and injuries are business as usual. ... To train and race through all the injuries, exhaustion and pain, horses are subjected to an endless cycle of performance-enhancing medication and pain-masking drugs." And, by the way, this comes from an organization that last year alone reportedly killed 1,792 cats and dogs at its headquarters/shelter in Norfolk, Va., and has killed more than 31,000 since 1998, not irrelevant facts when considered in the context of PETA's motives. The Times even ran a piece in July of last year about the uproar these actions have caused.
Asmussen is barely present in the video. Most of all, it shows Blasi at his worst, behaving like a high school knucklehead who's so eager to impress that he brags, with an alarmingly vulgar and weak vocabulary, about how tough and bad and smart he is. Sometimes his assertions are just mistakenly wrong. Sometimes he sounds like the same knucklehead boasting in the crudest terms about what may or may not have happened in the backseat of his Chevy. It's not very unlike the hyperbolic boasting and bragging in any other workplace.
Blasi's crude insensitivity and seeming disregard might be the most disturbing aspect of the video. Anybody who abuses horses should be banned from the sport, but that isn't what this video shows. And leaping to any conclusion based on 9½ minutes of highly selective and deceptively edited video would be not just unwise but downright dumb. Were there moments during those four months when the undercover agent was slinking around that Asmussen and Blasi expressed or demonstrated their respect and affection for the horses in their care? Almost certainly, but those moments weren't recorded, or at least weren't included. Were there moments when overflowing compassion and admiration moved workers in that barn to gestures of genuine tenderness and kindness? Very possibly, but those moments weren't recorded, or at least weren't included. The video, in other words, makes no attempt to reach any truth.
That's why a reasonable response would have been to ignore it. But it's too late for that. And so there needs to be an investigation -- of PETA.