Affair Sanitizes 'French Bashing' in New York Media
"For 50 cents, every morning the reader is served juicy revelations, always taking aim at the French. ... Having a man from the left - a French man moreover - pinned to the front page of one of his company's publications, doesn't displease the very conservative Rupert Murdoch. … The French-bashing has only just begun."
Tabet, Special Correspondent in New York
The arrest of former IMF director and rising star of French politics, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has exposed a nasty streak of French bashing in the U.S. media - particularly in newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch.
The big story. For Charles B.,
the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is "the" great affair of a
career. At New York Post headquarters, just blocks from the Sofitel in Times
Square, he's one of a pool of reporters who feed on the daily chronicle of DSK.
Since May 15, his newspaper, a trashy tabloid, has devoted almost all of its
front pages to "The Perv." And for 50 cents, every morning the reader
is served juicy revelations, always taking aim at the French. The presumed
crime of the "rotten frog," of the "crybaby," of the
"repulsive fat cat" is described in detail, as is the splendor of all
of his successive lodgings. Again on Saturday he was called a "bad
tipper" - a cheapskate who doesn't tip. Unimaginable in the French press.
With impeccable jeans, a plaid
shirt and a borrowed demeanor, thirty-something Charles has nothing of the air
of Joseph Rouletabille about
him. His newsroom is situated on the Avenue of the Americas in a glass building
that houses a number of outlets of the Murdoch empire: the Fox News Channel,
the very serious Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, with
more than 500,000 copies sold each day. It has a small-format, it is square, has
an aggressive layout, isolated photos, color, thick black ink, and the American
flag on the upper right.
infamous 'perp walk' of Dominique Strauss-Kahn,
Charles is the link in a
well-oiled journalistic chain. He writes. Any questions about the police? About
Anne Sinclair? [DSK's
wife]. Charles calls one of his colleagues to verify the information. Every day
there are fifteen of them working on THE issue. The writers and investigators are
scattered in the field; correspondents are permanently stationed on the
premises of the New York Police Department, in a bungalow, in the "Room
9" lobby of New York City Hall; or perhaps on the ground floor of the
courthouse, next to the waiting room. "We also have a correspondent in
Israel," says Charles with a knowing air, "and friends of
Strauss-Kahn are on the move in Guinea, the accuser's native country."
Charles says that two French-speaking journalists are scrutinizing the French
and African press. "For now," he says with a touch of condescension
in his voice, "that hasn't been very useful to us."
A stolen photo sparks debate
It was the New York Post
that broke the story in the United States via an Internet alert at around
6:30pm last Saturday, May 14 (12:30am French time). The tabloid has every
intention of maintaining its lead, even if it means sometimes publishing
information that is quickly refuted: contrary to assertions that day, the
accuser didn't have AIDS. And besides, having a man from the left - a French
man moreover - pinned to the front page of one of his company's publications,
doesn't displease the very conservative Rupert Murdoch. The
Sun, symbol of the company in Great Britain, had caricatured President Jacques Chirac as an
earthworm! And in 2009, the New York Post triggered controversy by
publishing a drawing depicting Barack Obama as a monkey. Nothing less.
The New York Post
goes for the French jugular.
"It's the news story of
the century," says Jere Hester, journalism professor at New York
University and formerly of the Daily News. "It hardly matters what political
affiliation Strauss-Kahn has." Last week the Post wasn't very
charitable toward Schwarzenegger and his hidden child. "Yet he is a
Republican." Kantar Media, an institute specializing in "media
noise," has calculated that the "Strauss-Kahn affair" had made
headlines in 150,000 national dailies around the world. Even Obama can't say that.
"This news story is extraordinary because it concerns the whole
planet," continues Jere Hester. It isn't only a question of sexual
politics: she is African, poor and Muslim, and he's White, rich, Jewish and
The New York Post isn't
the only New York media to feel passionately about the former director of the IMF.
The Daily News, its direct competitor (700,000 copies), adopts a much
more nuanced political line. Nonetheless, last May 20 on its Web site, it
published a snapshot of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in prison. The sneaked photo shows
him in a degrading pose, blue anti-suicide uniform, unshaven, and his face completely
haggard. Moreover, the prosecutor has launched an investigation to determine
the source of the snapshot. In addition to these two New York papers, the major
American networks, including CNN, dispatched production vehicles to
Manhattan, equipped with filming equipment and even helicopters to follow the
event. While Anne Sinclair was seeking lodging in Manhattan for her husband,
the noise of propellers announced every movement. The New York Times
sent a team of ten reporters into the field. The daily newspaper of record that
has the motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print" - progressive and
rather Democratic - has a great deal of space dedicated to him. Its cruelest
attack came from one of the newspaper's editorial stars, Maureen Dowd, who
castigated the French media for being shocked by photos of Strauss-Kahn
handcuffed and for the support shown by his "friend," Bernard
Henri-Lévy. "At least he didn’t mention Dreyfus" she wrote
- referring to the emotions of French who suspect a conspiracy. The French-bashing
has only just begun.
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