What to Make of Air France's All-Male Strauss-Kahn Staff
A report says the airline carefully managed crews to avoid an incident; the airline denies it
Air France issued a directive to its crew that only male flight attendants should wait on Dominique Strauss-Kahn. That's the news in France on Thursday, according to Agence France-Presse, which cited the French newspaper Le Parisien. But the airline denied it issued any such directive. "Air France formally denies having given any instruction about the composition of its crews," a spokesman told the news agency. The detail about the crew order came as Le Parisien reported that the lawyers for Sofitel hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, who has accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her when she went to clean his room, had called for testimony about Strauss-Kahn's alleged airborne harassment from flight attendants. The former director of the International Monetary Fund was a frequent Air France flier, and was aboard a flight for Paris when he was arrested at John F. Kennedy Jr. International Airport on May 14, just minutes before the plane took off.
Strauss-Kahn's behavior on that plane has come under scrutiny before. Early in the case, the French magazine Le Point reported that he had made a crude remark about one of the female cabin crew members. As the New York Post put it, "he had barked at an attendant, 'What a nice ass!' as she prepared the cabin for takeoff." According to AFP, Le Parisien based its report about the cabin crew directive on information from Diallo's lawyers Kenneth Thompson and Thomas Wigdor, as well as an anonymous letter it received. The lawyers said they had gotten "two testimonies from air crew who had been importuned." When AFP followed up with the French airline unions, they said no complaints had come in about Strauss-Kahn.
Strauss-Kahn's penchant for gross behavior around women has been one of the steady themes of the whole saga. There was the famous quote from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who reportedly told a U.S.-bound Strauss-Kahn in 2007 to "avoid taking the lift alone with interns." There was the May report in Time about about Strauss-Kahn's pattern of womanizing, which was politely ignored because of his place in society. And most recently, there was New York's feature on Strauss-Kahn's wife, Anne Sinclair, who it reported had turned the other cheek to his inappropriate behavior.