Yesterday, Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel worker who accused prominent French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault in a New York City hotel last year, “agreed to settle” the civil lawsuit she had instituted against him for an undisclosed amount. Diallo has also settled a lawsuit against local tabloid, The New York Post. The newspaper had, without any evidence and citing “anonymous” sources, reported that she worked as a prostitute. After the settlement was announced, Diallo thanked the world and the skies, “I thank everybody, and I thank God.”
You know the story of Diallo already, and you know the story of the story, the ways in which much of the Western media, and in particular the U.S. and the French media, covered it. There’s no question who is the settler, that French guy, and who’s the native, “the African chambermaid.”
True to form, Reuters reported on Monday’s proceedings under the headline: “Strauss-Kahn, NYC hotel maid settle civil lawsuit over alleged assault.” The article names Strauss-Kahn four times, over the space of a sub-heading and three paragraphs, and names the judge in the case, Douglas McKeon, before whispering Nafissatou Diallo’s name. And here’s how Reuters introduces Nafissatou Diallo:
His accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, was present as the judge had ordered, wearing a green blouse with black pants and a gray and white scarf around her head.
Seriously? What matters is what a woman wears? What do you think that French guy was wearing? Please, don’t answer.
The New York Times report isn’t much better, except that, thankfully, they don’t focus on wardrobe.
The AP mentions Diallo sort of quickly, in the second paragraph, and then can’t resist:
Strauss-Kahn did not attend the hearing on Monday at a Bronx courthouse. Diallo, her hair covered by a leopard-print scarf, looked composed and resolute as the deal was announced.
The Guardian as well mentions Diallo earlier, and then:
Dressed in a snow-leopard skin print headscarf and emerald blouse, she made no statement while in the courtroom. But in brief comments on the steps of the Bronx Supreme Court, Diallo, who was born in Guinea and who is the mother to a teenage girl, thanked her supporters.
The BBC actually mentioned Diallo in its second sentence, did not mention her clothing, and did end with this:
In the wake of Ms Diallo’s accusations, other women came forward with sexual assault allegations against him.
It’s worth noting that this miscoverage, a portmanteau that melds miscarriage and coverage, of this event is a fitting end to the International Human Rights Day and to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.