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Stephen A. Smith has defended the reporter who made Naomi Osaka cry during her first press conference this week following her exit from the French Open over mental health issues.
We previously reported, during Monday’s Zoom presser ahead of her appearance at the Western & Southern Open in Ohio, Osaka took several questions without incident, until journalist Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer entered the fray.
Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times, who was present in the room, tweeted: “Someone from Cincinnati Enquirer asked her a fairly aggressively toned question about how she benefits from a high-media profile but doesn’t like talking to media. Osaka tried to engage, but after her answer began crying.”
Rothenberg said Osaka left the podium for several minutes, then returned to finish the presser. Rothenberg later mentioned Dougherty’s tone ruined the flow of the press conference altogether, and defended her against haters on Twitter.
Osaka’s agent Stuart Duguid blasted the Cincinnati Enquirer reporter, calling Daugherty a “bully” and blamed his line of questioning for triggering Osaka.
Smith defended Daugherty for what he said was fair questioning, Mediaite reports.
“My issue is with the agent,” Smith said Tuesday on ESPN’s First Take. “He is so off-base with what he said, I can’t say it enough. I don’t know the reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer…maybe he came there with a reputation that precedes him and they knew about it. Maybe that’s what it was. We don’t know.”
Listen to the interaction between Daugherty and Osaka via the clip above.
“Based off of that press conference, I thought the reporter was incredibly fair and incredibly delicate with how he asked the question. Then, the moderator said, ‘would you like to move on?’ And Naomi Osaka said no,” Smith explained. “I’m trying to figure out what the reporter did wrong. I didn’t see that. And for the agent to come out with a statement basically accusing the journalist of bullying her, I’m like ‘what? What are you talking about?’”
“If you are a journalist and that is what we classify as bullying, then as a journalist you get to go up there and the only thing you can say is, ‘what would you like to talk about?’ to anybody,” Smith continued.
Daugherty tweeted that he “never bullied anyone my entire life.” His penned an article Tuesday for the Cincinnati Enquirer titled Naomi Osaka is honest, thoughtful and could help many other athletes.”