How do you introduce a story that must give a detailed account of a victim's explicit recollection of sexual assault during surgery? Columnist Rosie DiManno considered the question and chose to start off her story, "She lost a womb but gained a penis."
The Toronto Star columnist is being pilloried and ascribed the dubious distinction of having written the worst lead in the history of journalism. Her story, a delicate one at best, involves Dr. George Doodnaught, an anesthesiologist charged with assaulting 20 women while they were under anesthesia for surgery at the North York General Hospital.
DiManno tells the story of a particular victim "DD."
The rape victim in the case was undergoing a surgical procedure to remove her womb, hysterectomy in medical parlance, but during the surgery she was assaulted by the anesthesiologist, who fondled her and forced her to perform an oral sex act. The full text of DiManno's lead:
"She lost a womb but gained a penis.
"The former was being removed surgically- full hysterectomy- while the latter was forcible shoved into her slack mouth."
Rosie DiManno's horrifyingly inappropriate lead is going viral on online social media with Twitterverse literally agog with an exemplary case of journalistic "mis-lead."
DiManno, for no fault of hers, renders the victim's explicit courtroom account of her terrifying experience in surgical theater. The victim said she was partially awake but numb, when the anesthesiologist began fondling, kissing and forcing her to perform oral sex. The victim, identified as "DD," gave an account that left nothing to the imagination:
"I remember opening my eyes and seeing a blue screen in front of me and feeling my right breast being fondled... Massaging, tweaking under the nipple, caressing...
"I remember thinking to myself, ‘I do not believe that this is happening to me.’ I closed my eyes and felt myself being almost smothered. He was kissing me, he had his tongue in my mouth, swirling it around....
"I opened my eyes because I felt I was gagging. My head was turned to the left and he had his penis in my mouth. I saw the shaft of his penis. I saw brown skin. I saw veins. And I remember looking up at his face because he was leaning on the screen with his right hand on his hip, his left hand on the screen and I (saw) his wedding band.
"That ring glinted in the light. I remember thinking, 'you bastard'... [He was] moving his hips in and out very slowly, very rhythmically...
"I’m never going to forget that smell... I smelled him because he had his penis in my mouth. I smelled his body and I remember it turning my stomach.”
Another alleged victim, who went for a hip replacement in 2008, tells her story:
"(I recall) the sensation of being French-kissed, a tongue being inserted into my mouth. I couldn't move, I couldn't open my eyes. But I felt the tongue being removed and then reinserted. . . . This person was a very experienced French kisser."Gawker comments on the unavoidably sordid details of the story, saying, it is "a terrible story that deserves to be told so that Doodnaught, if tried and convicted, can go to jail. But also: a story that [DiManno] could have started off in literally any other way..."
Jezebel similarly observes that the "rest of DiManno's article proceeds with proper restraint, but those first two lines are pretty revolting, and, not surprisingly, a perfect example of how to alienate pretty much anyone who has decided to read your article."
As grave as the case is, DiManno's artless lead has earned her story the Twitter hashtag #rosiedimannolede. Straight.com reports Twitter users have come up with responses to the article lead that illustrate just how ridiculously clueless it was:
The Weimar Republic collapsed but Germany gained a fuhrer.
Humanity lost the Hindenburg but gained a memorable newsreel.
The Titanic sank but the North Atlantic gained a diving site.
Anne Boleyn lost her head but Herman's Hermit gained a hit pop song
O.J. lost his ex-wife but gained an acquittal
The Wiemar Republic collapsed but Germany gained a Fuhrer