Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is now speaking out publicly–weeks after press coverage took a turn against her, based on the notion that something about her made her allegations less credible.
“Strauss-Kahn Prosecution Said to Be Near Collapse” was the July 1 New York Times headline. One of the strongest bits of evidence was the claim that Diallo spoke to a friend, in prison on a drug charge, about Strauss-Kahn’s wealth–the implication was that she and a criminal associate were plotting out how to profit from the assault.
On July 1, the New York Times reported the existence of a taped conversation between Diallo and Tarawally. The article said they talked the day after the incident at the Sofitel and quoted a “well-placed law enforcement official”: “She says words to the effect of: ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing.'” But at the time, prosecutors did not have a full transcript of the call, which had been conducted in a dialect of Fulani, Diallo’s language. The quote was a paraphrase from a translator’s summary of the tape, and the actual words are somewhat different, sources told Newsweek.
In July, Newsweek talked to Tarawally in Arizona. He insisted that the quotation must refer to a later conversation and in any case was taken out of context. Diallo said she no longer talks to Tarawally. He used her bank account to move tens of thousands of dollars around the country without informing her, she said. She denied he ever gave her money to spend. “Like I say, he was my friend,” Diallo told us. “I used to trust him.”
Strauss-Kahn has millions of dollars to defend himself against serious criminal charges. Part of how one does that is by discrediting one’s accusers, and one of the best tools to do that is the press. To take negative information about Diallo appearing in news articles at face value– even when that information is said to be coming from the prosecution’s side– would be naive in the extreme.