The cover of this morning’s New York Post (right) includes the headline “Hotel Maid in HIV Shock,” in reference to the woman who accused IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn of an attempted rape in Manhattan last weekend. The article was the American media’s ugliest foray into icky case so far, one day after French outlets started publishing the alleged victim’s name, in addition to many other details about her, all the while complaining about the treatment of Strauss-Kahn, who was photographed wearing handcuffs (the horror?). But not only is the Post story offensive, it’s factually inaccurate, according to the New York Daily News. Unfortunately, it’s far from the only indignity forced on the alleged victim by the press today. And it’s probably only going to get worse.
Rather than link to the Post‘s story, here’s a thoughtful take on it by Tom McGeveran of Capital New York, who sums up the journalistic sloppiness:
The Post touts its cooperation with authorities in not releasing the name of the accuser, and goes to some lengths in its main article on the D.S.K. case today to detail efforts being made by the New York Police Department to “protect” her from offers from influential friends of D.S.K. to drop the case in exchange for favors. But it reveals that she was living in an apartment organized for her by the charity Harlem United, which places people with HIV and AIDS in rent-assisted housing. The sum of the importance of this fact, which does not establish that the alleged victim is HIV-positive, is the suggestion that the accused sex criminal “may have more to worry about than a possible prison sentence” because, “[according] to the federal Centers for Disease Control: ‘It is possible for either partner to become infected with HIV through performing or receiving oral sex.'” This, in the mind of the Post, qualifies as a “shock.”
He also notes that she’s later referred to as the “IMF gal in AIDS-help apartment.”
Hours later, the prosecuting attorney in the IMF case, Jeffrey Shapiro, said his client is “absolutely not” HIV-positive. “She lived in a sublet apartment in the Bronx,” Shapiro said. “That’s outrageous.”
“There is nothing consensual about what took place in that hotel room,” he continued on the Today show this morning. (This report comes, interestingly, from the Post‘s rivals at the Daily News, which seems to be responding directly to the above cover story, though without mentioning it by name.)
At the same time, the French press — which we noted yesterday has been using the name of the victim although that’s not standard procedure in U.S. courts or media — is being even uglier with the identity of the victim.
While Paris Match notes that Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers called the accuser “very unattractive,” she’s also been referred to a “very pretty,” with “big boobs and a beautiful buttocks.”
Though Slate.fr’s editor argued that details about the victim, including her name, fight “false accusation against the victim that she’s doing [this] for money or she’s a prostitute and things like that,” the ugliness, conjecture, and superficiality that’s resulted is sizable collateral damage that one can only hope does not hinder her shot at a fair trial. But that might be a while, unfortunately for her reputation and any hopes of getting on with her life.