On the heels of a tell-all interview with ESPN published Friday, in which Janay Rice spoke for the first time about the night her then-fiance, Ray Rice, knocked her unconscious in an elevator, Janay and her mother, Candy Palmer, sat for a two-part interview with the Today show’s Matt Lauer yesterday morning and today. (Ray Rice put in an appearance toward the end.)
The interviews are an attempt to redeem Ray Rice, especially now that he is eligible to play in the NFL again. There’s never been a question about his talent, but in the court of public opinion, he’s persona non grata, a public relations nightmare.
The Rices and Mama Candy are doing their best to revive Ray’s dream. There’s a part of me that appreciates the all-hands-on-deck effort here: the wife pleading for her husband’s redemption, the stern and protective mother-in-law vouching for her daughter’s version of events, and Ray’s near-begging humility. These are people who really care about one another. But they are also people who are in deep denial, and it would take a willful suspension of common sense to buy into their revisionist version of events.
I’ll skip what Janay told Lauer, since most of it was covered in the ESPN interview, and get right to Mama Candy. I get why Mom has been trotted out for the national stage. Mothers get the benefit of the doubt for being sensible and pulled together. And by showing her support for her daughter while in fired-up, protective mode, Mama Candy lets us know that someone seems to have Janay Rice’s back—so, you know, we can all stop being so concerned about Janay because Mom is there and holding things down.
Just as Janay did in her ESPN interview, Mama Candy reiterates that this punch was a one-and-done occurrence. “There is no next time,” she says adamantly. She adds that she didn’t raise “a young woman to be an abused woman.”
The truth of the matter is, Mom knows only what her daughter tells her. Mom isn’t with the couple every day. So her denial about her daughter having been hit more than once, and her assurance that it won’t happen again, is unreliable. No matter how much Mom and Janay may deny it, I’m unconvinced that the very first time Ray Rice hit Janay just so happened to be a knockout blow caught on camera. You’re trying to tell me that there was no slapping, no spitting, in the seven years they were together before this, but this one time on Valentine’s Day weekend, it just happened, with no buildup whatsoever?
And while Mama Candy gets assertive with Lauer about what type of daughter she raised, I just want to tap her on the shoulder and ask, “But ma’am, did you see the tape?” I’ll never blame the mother’s parenting for what happened to Janay Rice. That responsibility rests solely on Ray, who, when he finally shows up in the interview, completely takes the blame. (“My wife is an angel,” he says. “She can do no wrong.”) But the woman Mama Candy raised is, in fact, an abused woman. There’s video footage of her being knocked out by her then-fiance.
Mama Candy is saying that Janay is not a domestic violence victim (or survivor), and she keeps talking about “them”—domestic violence survivors—as if they’re the people over there, not the person sitting on the couch next to her.
“What this has done, though, it has made us aware about the people that are actually living this every day,” said Mama Candy. “I feel bad for their parents, their mothers, that they can’t get their kids out of this … ”
But ma’am, your daughter got knocked unconscious by a man she was engaged to. This is the very definition of domestic violence. You are also “the people” you feel bad for. The Rices and Mama Candy are so adamant that there has been no additional physical abuse in the relationship, but given how they define domestic violence, I’m curious now about how this family defines abuse.
Papa Palmer has also been sent to the main stage for the apology tour. Many people have wondered about him, mostly, “What is he thinking?” ’Cause no one can imagine that as a father, he had anything less than the highest level of anger after seeing, or at least hearing about, his daughter’s assault.
Papa Palmer shows up toward the end of the interview, standing in the kitchen with his wife and the Rices. He doesn’t say much until Lauer points out, “I know people are going to watch this interview and they’re going to dissect every piece of language, every piece of body language, to see what’s going on in this family. Are you aware you’re going to be living under that scrutiny for a long time?”
Funny. While everyone else was talking around Papa Palmer, I’d been staring at him, (over)analyzing his body language, which screamed, “This is some BS. Get me out of here.” He looked positively stank-faced, as if he were biting his tongue, until Lauer mentioned the bit about body language. Then he perked up and finally spoke.
“We know who we are, and we know the truth,” he told Lauer.
I’m sure they all do. But I’m still not convinced they’re telling it to us.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter.