A Manhattan Supreme Court judge dismissed all criminal charges against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn today after the District Attorney's office made official their doubts about the creditability of his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo. Since May 14, the sexual assault case has captivated the world and especially the media, but none more than the New York Post, which devoted nineteen covers, in full or in part, to the charges against the man once thought to be a shoe-in for the French presidency.
This morning, the Post screams "Fraud!" at Diallo, but back on May 15, they told a different story, damning Strauss-Kahn out of the gate before circling back and slamming his accuser, too. Diallo is now suing the tabloid for libel. And although her pending civil case against DSK means the headline puns probably aren't over, it's quite a roller coaster to remember the saga through the lens of Post covers.
When the story first broke on a Saturday in spring, Strauss-Kahn was the only character. Come Sunday morning, with the accuser still anonymous, the obvious choice was to cast the man as a villain: He was the foreign head of an international financial organization (from France, of all places!), a scenario that lent itself equally well to xenophobia and class warfare, and he had a well-documented history as a womanizer. His grand presidential ambitions only put his pedestal higher, and there's nothing a tabloid loves more than a good fall. (Little did they know it would only be a few short weeks until Weinergate.)
The accuser, on the other hand, was an underdog at first — "a hardworking African immigrant," the Post wrote, quoting a coworker who called her "a good person, very nice, very friendly." And so the first set of covers set forth with that story in mind — a fall from grace for a greedy, horny Frenchman, a classic and neat narrative.
Whereas she was once a hardworking woman to the tabloid, the accuser is now painted as a low-class scammer, and it is insinuated that she has HIV or AIDS. An unnamed lawyer is quoted, "She could make $6 million, maybe more, just by shutting her mouth." But despite the seeds of doubt about the accuser, the paper keeps running with DSK as the primary villain.
Caught short by the New York Times scoop about Diallo's crumbling credibility, the Post pulls an abrupt 180 and goes full-bore against DSK's accuser. Not that the Post regrets its demonization of DSK, of course ...
It's out with the Francophobia and in with the misogyny, as paper-thin allegations about Diallo's sex life open up a whole new world of prurient phrases: "working girl, "double duty as a prostitute," "big bucks," "hooker," "pathological liar," and "scam artist."
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