In Wake of IMF Chief's Rape Arrest, Journalists Tout France's 'Anita Hill Moment'
Published: 5/23/2011 1:46 PM ET
Yet another case study in how the liberal media never stop pushing their own interpretation of events: In a May 22 This Week roundtable about the arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the alleged sexual assault of a female hotel worker, two journalists endorsed it as France's "Anita Hill moment," referring to the last-minute claims raised against conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas nearly 20 years ago.
But Hill never alleged that Thomas did anything either violent or criminal - and polls taken at the time (USA Today, October 14, 1991) showed the public sided with Clarence Thomas over Hill by a nearly two-to-one margin (47% to 24%). Despite the public's verdict, journalists have never cast the Hill case as that of a politically-motivated accuser engaged in a high-profile act of character assassination.
Instead, the liberal interpretation since 1991 is that Anita Hill was a true victim, of both Thomas and a male-dominated culture that failed to take women's charges of sexual harassment seriously. Thus on Sunday, Paris-based reporter Elaine Sciolino of the New York Times summoned that view when talking about French reaction to Strauss-Kahn's allegedly violent attack:
Anita Hill challenged Clarence Thomas when he was up to become a Supreme Court justice back in 1991. She claimed that he had sexually harassed her. He was confirmed, but the episode opened up a discussion in the United States. Sexual harassment laws were expanded, and there were new laws of conduct that were imposed in the workplace. The same thing is happening in France....A few minutes later, ABC's Cokie Roberts endorsed Sciolino's point:
Elaine's point is so well taken on, is that we really did change after Anita Hill, and it made a difference in terms of electing women to office, all of that. And one of the things that we have been way too slow to change on, but finally slightly getting there, is listening to women when they make these complaints. And the fact that this fancy French hotel paid attention to a chambermaid instead of the powerful Frenchman is really a change that is very, very welcome.
Of course, since the discussion was about powerful men accused of sexual crimes, the panel could have chosen to remind viewers of the sexual harassment charges Paula Jones brought against then-President Bill Clinton in 1994 (in an actual lawsuit, not last-minute testimony on the eve of Thomas's confirmation vote), or Juanita Broaddrick's charge (documented on NBC's Dateline in 1999) that Clinton raped her when he was a candidate for Arkansas governor in 1978.
But the media had a hostile reaction to both women, belying Roberts' notion that "we really did change after Anita Hill....listening to women when they make these complaints."
Here's more of the transcript of the exchange as it took place towards the end of the May 22 This Week on ABC:
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Extraordinary falls from grace for two larger-than-life politicians this week, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, both engulfed in sordid scandals. When it comes to sex and politics, very little shocks us these days, it seems, but these stories have struck a chord, and we want to sort out the implications.
ABC's Cokie Roberts and her husband, journalist Steve Roberts, joins us. And joining us from Paris, Elaine Sciolino of the New York Times. Her book is called "La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life." Thank you all for joining me.
I want to start by saying, obviously, these are two very different issues. One is an alleged crime; the other is a full-blown sex scandal. So on the alleged crime, Elaine, I want to go to you first, because you've written this week that this is France's Anita Hill moment. What do you mean by that?
ELAINE SCIOLINO: Anita Hill challenged Clarence Thomas when he was up to become a Supreme Court justice back in 1991. She claimed that he had sexually harassed her. He was confirmed, but the episode opened up a discussion in the United States. Sexual harassment laws were expanded, and there were new laws of conduct that were imposed in the workplace.
The same thing is happening in France. This is a moment in which all French - I mean, everybody from the commerca - the merchant in the store - to the top politicians, are saying, is this the way we should be behaving? Is this a moment of truth for us, consciousness raising? Should we indeed think about changing our own rules?
AMANPOUR: Well, that's interesting, because everything that we've heard over the last week is that the French were pretty much up in arms about seeing him, the famous perp walk, saying that he was victim of a conspiracy plot. So have they changed the dialogue then?
SCIOLINO: There is an evolution day by day. This is why I don't trust any polls on this subject. The first reaction was defiance, disbelief, shock. It can't possibly be that this man we knew could have been guilty of such a crime, sort of like the first stage of grief.
Then came incredible anger when the French saw him in handcuffs publicly, which is against French law, and even worse, when he appeared in a court of law unshaven and, quelle horreur, without a tie.
Finally, as few of the details have started to come out, more details, there is a questioning of, you know, where are we? Was a crime committed? Was this a consensual act? What does crossing the line mean in France? Should we be thinking about what is normal flirtation in the workplace and what is sexual harassment? And when does sexual harassment become a crime and, in this case, potentially, a violent crime?AMANPOUR: So, Cokie and Steve, you've also written this week that, in fact, the Dominique Strauss-Kahn situation here has implications for the United States, as well.
COKIE ROBERTS: Well, I - one of the things that Elaine's point is so well taken on, is that we really did change after Anita Hill, and it made a difference in terms of electing women to office, all of that.
And one of the things that we have been way too slow to change on, but finally slightly getting there, is listening to women when they make these complaints. And the fact that this fancy French hotel paid attention to a chambermaid instead of the powerful Frenchman is really a change that is very, very welcome.
AMANPOUR: And yet in the article, and as we know, through all sorts of investigations, this does continue a lot in Peace Corps, in the military, everywhere.
STEVE ROBERTS: You're right. There have been a number of American institutions very slow to respond in the way that Cokie's talking about. Peace Corps, over a thousand complaints of rape, that women have been subjected to. And one women said the treatment by the Peace Corps was worse than the rape, because they were so disbelieving and so critical in the way they handled it. Military even worse. So, yes, I agree completely.