I promise I’m not becoming fixated on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the IMF, but watching him apologise through gritted teeth in his first television interview inspired a sympathy vote for Nafissatou Diallo, the chambermaid who accused him of raping her in a Manhattan hotel room last May.
Under disarming interrogation by Claire Chazal, a close friend of his wife’s, Monsieur Strauss-Kahn maintained the incident in the Sofitel was “an error” and a “moral failure”. He apologized to his wife, his children, his friends, and the French people. But where, oh where, was an apology to Nafissatou Diallo?
Now, I know that Ms Diallo has been declared a liar by US prosecutors, and the criminal case against DSK has thus been dropped; and I know there is still a civil case looming, which clearly militates against his making any incriminating statements. But a glimmer of real regret for the incident as opposed to bitterness over his thwarted run at the French presidency would have been nice.
In this act of denial he joins a huge club of men and women who, in the wake of an extra-marital tango, throw the former object of their passion under the bus. This, to my mind, is almost as morally indefensible as cheating on your spouse.
Why is it so difficult for the unfaithful to act graciously towards their one-time partner in ‘crime’? You can still seek redemption for the pain you have caused your spouse et al without relegating the ‘other’ to the ranks of the unclean, the unworthy, and the contemptible.
Your apology to those you have hurt is not enhanced by your denunciation of your co-conspirator, rather the reverse; it reveals you to be a hypocrite. Far better, you do your mea culpas and leave the other person with some shreds of dignity. He or she can set fire to their reputations all by themselves.
In recent weeks there has been a fleet of sports stars, actors, and public figures who, having been exposed for their crimes of passion, profess the affair to be an aberration. Remember Tiger Woods? The extent of Elin’s betrayal notwithstanding, would he not have gained extra points by publically apologizing to his lovers for the lies he told them? Might then their outrage not have resulted in so many salacious revelations.
Some say that Nafissatou Diallo - yes, let’s say her name again - was motivated by greed, therefore she deserves no consideration or compassion from her alleged attacker. But I have a feeling that she would not have pursued her case, and certainly not with such conviction, were Mr Strauss-Kahn to have shown a scintilla of regret in the immediate wake of the encounter.
I realize that by focusing on infidelity I have largely ignored the matter of rape, which is at the centre of the DSK affair, but this tendency to compensate for bad behaviour by claiming temporary insanity and thus relegating the other person to an embarrassing footnote in history deserves discussion.
I cannot know for sure that Ms. Diallo is a victim of rape, but she is certainly a victim of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s narcissism and deplorable indifference, and for this she deserves our sympathy and his apologies.