Mixed Reactions Greet Decision to Drop DSK Charges

Some in the media were offended as feminists while others were offended by feminists

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The morning after prosecutors moved to drop criminal charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, pundits and columnists had all manner of opinions about the case, which the New York State Supreme Court is due to address Tuesday. It was surprising there wasn't more feminist outrage over the decision, which we know exists because of the protest that greeted the decision on Monday night. But there was some, and opinion-givers ranged from being offended at early feminist outrage to praising the justice system to offering gloomy thoughts about Strauss-Kahn's political future.

Jezebel carried this reaction from Sonia Ossario, who originally spoke with The New York Times:

Sonia Ossorio, the executive director of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, said the case was, "mishandled by many people, including the victim's lawyer," however, "The prospect of Dominique Strauss-Kahn simply walking away scot-free is appalling." Strauss-Kahn isn't totally free, as he's still facing a civil suit filed by Diallo and allegations that he raped French writer Tristane Banon in 2003. Yet, it does seem that we'll never know what exactly happened in the Sofitel hotel room, and if a crime was committed, it will go unpunished.

The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin reminds us that, while Diallo didn't win the case, neither did Strauss-Kahn, by moral or even possibly legal standards:

But the complaints about Diallo hardly serve as an exoneration of D.S.K. As the prosecutors tell it, his behavior seems odious at best and criminal at worst. A housekeeper appeared in his hotel room, and some brief time later—maybe ten minutes, maybe a little more—she was spitting out his semen in the hallway. It is difficult to imagine a scenario that reflects anything but dishonor, if not criminal culpability, on this prominent man.

At the UK's Telegraph, Toby Young had some harsh words for the "Polly Fillers" or female lifestyle columnists of Fleet Street, who he says rushed to judgment of Strauss-Kahn. (The Australian carried a similar condemnation of feminists as a "baying brigade of zealots" who were proved wrong.) Young writes:

The willingness of Fleet Street’s female columnists to believe in Strauss-Kahn’s guilt was eye-opening. Most of these women profess to be liberals, paying lip service to the idea that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Yet the moment a man is accused of sexual harassment or worse, the presumption of innocence goes out the window.


It’s not surprising, of course (and these weren’t the only ones). Almost every Polly Filler depends for her moral authority (such that it is) on standing up for women’s rights. If a news story has some angle that enables them to shoehorn in a bit of Left-wing sexual politics, they won’t be able to resist and the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case was one such story.

At Slate, William Saletan turns the case around on prosecutors, writing, "Having exaggerated the case against Strauss-Kahn, prosecutors are now exaggerating the case against Diallo." He offers four points from Monday's motion for dismissal that he says don't add up, calling into question the prosecution's evidence surrounding Diallo's report of what happened after the alleged assault, her fabricated Guinean rape story, the apparently damning phone call with her fiance in prison, and the financial transactions in her bank account. He concludes that the motion is a "shifty, unsubstantiated, heavily spun report from the DA."

The New York Times's Clyde Haberman had one of the better of a crop of columns (including at NewsBeast and Simple Justice) characterizing the decision as a victory of the justice system. Haberman writes:

Fairly or not, the justice system itself has been criticized by an assortment of groups, including representatives of women’s advocacy organizations who protested Monday evening outside the Criminal Courts Building in Manhattan.

Yet it could be argued that the system, if flawed, worked as it is supposed to.

A woman of little social status charged that a man of considerable power had attacked her. Instead of dismissing her out of hand, as might have been the case in other societies, the New York authorities sprang into action. They yanked the man off a plane and hauled him off to jail. When her credibility was then deemed to have as much substance as a soap bubble, the authorities decided they had no choice but to let the suspect go.

And The Economist had some ideas about what might happen to Strauss-Kahn next:

In the short run it seems likely that Mr Strauss-Kahn will head to Washington, DC, not least in order to explain himself to his former colleagues at the IMF. Some suggest that he may take time out in Marrakesh, Morocco, where he and his wife, Anne Sinclair, have a house. But, sooner or later, he is expected back in France. He can expect to meet a mixed reception.


[T]he chances are that it will be a good while until Mr Strauss-Kahn can fully participate again in public life. It would be almost impossible for him to run for the presidency, even if the Socialist Party were to change its rules to enable him to do so. The detailed descriptions of the alleged sexual encounter in the New York hotel room are too fresh in voters’ minds. And Ms Diallo has launched a civil suit against him, which does not preclude his return to France but could hang over him for months.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.