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Second Take: Don’t place same weight of parents’ college scandal crimes on Olivia Jade

(Source: various media outlets)

By Eli Countryman

March 14, 2019 5:02 p.m.

Olivia Jade isn’t actress Lori Loughlin’s only daughter – just her more famous one.

Even after a quick skim through the news about the recent “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal, many may be unaware of Jade’s sister, Isabella Rose Giannulli. The alleged controversy involves a complex scheme in which William Singer, who founded a referral-based college preparatory company, facilitated the bribing of collegiate coaches, including UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, in exchange for enrollment opportunities. Wealthy parents have paid Singer a collective $25 million since 2011 to help cheat on standardized tests, create falsified sports profiles and convince coaches to recruit their underqualified children.

[RELATED: UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo charged in college admissions bribery scheme]

In the case involving Loughlin, known for her role as Aunt Becky in “Full House,” she and her husband Mossimo Giannulli have been charged with fraud in relation to ensuring their children’s enrollment at the University of Southern California. Both daughters were accepted through the crew rowing program despite their lack of competitive rowing experience. Jade, however, has received the brunt of the backlash – an act of unfair targeting by the media at large.

Jade, an influencer with almost 2 million YouTube subscribers, has been singled out as a main figure involved in the scandal, no doubt because of her social media following. Her role in the matter is merely speculative, with some of the only evidence of her involvement being that she participated in a photo shoot where she pretended to be on a rowing crew.

Further, the current charges only list her parents. Yet news sources consistently include “Olivia Jade” in the headline, and one New York Times title even mentions “Lori Loughlin’s Daughter” in reference to Jade, not Isabella Giannulli, though both benefited from their parents’ actions. But Giannulli has a smaller following, and therefore less media coverage.

News sites seem to be so single-mindedly focused on Jade for the clicks, especially considering her name was struck from all records within the affidavit. A search for “Olivia Jade 2019” in Google News yielded over 35 million results Thursday, an increase from the 31 million Wednesday night.

But even the results for most of the parents actually charged – including the parents of a UCLA student – have only a few thousand stories this year. Mossimo Giannulli, who has actually been charged for the alleged crime, also garnered less media coverage, with “Mossimo Giannulli 2019” showing about 13 million news pieces Thursday, from about 11 million the night before.

The sheer abundance of stories about Jade is, quite frankly, an effort to increase page views by attacking someone who was not even charged with criminal activity. Most of the media’s attention revolves around comments Jade has made on her social media platforms about her lack of interest in education – she said in a vlog before her first year at USC that she was excited for game days and parties rather than the classes.

But she’s a 19-year-old girl currently enrolled in a school ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 22 college in the nation. Her edgy tweets are in good company – they echo ideas mumbled by hundreds of students in UCLA dorms each night. The only difference is that when she tweets, it gains traction. Media outlets have used Jade’s ironic comments to judge her for her part in the alleged crimes of her parents, but joking about disliking school does not a federal crime make.

While the children of many rich parents are being relatively ignored for their parts in cheating the college application system, Jade has not been so lucky. A slew of social media posts making fun of her situation accompany the news coverage. Some Twitter memes address Loughlin, but others joke about Jade’s predicament, suggesting that her next vlog will revolve around visiting her mother in prison.

[RELATED: USC, Stanford among universities embroiled in athletic admissions scandal]

The reviews on a makeup collaboration Jade did with Sephora also called for the product to be pulled, with one commenter referring to it as “the perfect palette for cheaters.” As of Thursday, the company no longer sells the product online. The comments to all of Jade’s YouTube videos were recently disabled, as were the comments for her most recent Instagram posts.

While Jade may have known about the alleged scandal, the media should focus on the real problem – the parents who take advantage of the system. Her parents are culpable, as is reflected in the current list of individuals charged in the investigation. Yes, Jade deserves a punishment fit for her role in the alleged scandal, but not at the level of public shame she is currently experiencing.

Even her sister, with fewer followers on Instagram, has avoided such intense backlash, and the media seems only to be latching onto Jade because of her social influence. But Olivia Jade should not be crucified for her parents’ actions, regardless of the role she played or the fame she wields.

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Eli Countryman
Countryman is currently a senior staff writer. He was previously the 2018-2019 Music | Arts editor and an A&E reporter. He is a fourth-year communication student.
Countryman is currently a senior staff writer. He was previously the 2018-2019 Music | Arts editor and an A&E reporter. He is a fourth-year communication student.
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