Amanda Knox hits out at tabloid media that ‘thwarted justice’ by turning her into a ‘made-up sexpot villain’

The American exchange student, who was cleared of murdering Meredith Kercher in 2015, accused journalists of painting her as a ‘sexually-obsessed, lustful whore’ and Kercher as a ‘virgin Madonna’

Io Dodds
Thursday 04 November 2021 17:05
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Amanda Knox: Joy as murder conviction overturned
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Amanda Knox has torn into the British tabloid industry for peddling misogynist “misinformation” about the murder of her flatmate Meredith Kercher that still dominates her life today.

It was in November 2007 that police in Italy ignited an international media storm by accusing the now 34-year-old American of murdering Ms Kercher, a fellow exchange student, during an “erotic game” with her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.

Only after eight years of legal battles and lurid press coverage were those claims finally thrown out by Italy’s supreme court, which ruled in 2015 that the police investigation had suffered “stunning flaws” and “investigative amnesia”.

Now, Ms Knox has told BBC Woman’s Hour that she holds tabloid newspapers responsible for turning her into a larger-than-life hate figure whose shadow she still struggles to escape. 

In an interview on Thursday, Ms Knox said: “If anyone should be held accountable for how this story spiralled out of control, and became not about Meredith but about a made-up sexpot villain, it is the tabloids.

“It is these journalists who should have been holding the prosecution and the detectives in Italy accountable to the truth. And that didn’t happen, and it still is an ongoing problem.”

British exchange student Meredith Kercher, with whom Ms Knox shared a room in Perugia, Italy

She pointed to the fact that DNA evidence implicated another man, Rudy Guede, who was indeed separately convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher in October 2008.

“It became a morality tale about female sexuality,” Ms Knox said. “Meredith was pitched as this virgin[al] Madonna character and I was portrayed as this sexually obsessed, lustful, uninhibited whore.

“And ultimately the reason why people so latched on to this case was because they were judging female sexuality through us. They were making Meredith into this perfectly invisible ideal victim to never name again...

“Just the idea of a sexually deviant, violent woman was enough to get people so riled up that they didn’t care about the truth anymore. And that is an insane problem.

“And that is something that I don’t think has really, really been addressed: how justice was thwarted because of our obsession with female deviancy and female sexuality.”

The BBC interview was prompted by the recent Hollywood film Stillwater, which is loosely based on the Kercher case but has makes its fictional equivalent of Ms Knox an ambiguous accomplice in the murder.

Knox visits Italy for the first time since her ordeal

Ms Knox said she was frustrated with the filmmakers for making the “most salacious version” of her story, saying it was just one more example of her life and struggles being treated “like a product that can just be consumed”.

Newspapers made much of Ms Knox’s childhood nickname, “Foxy Knoxy”, apparently intended as a reference to her skills at football. Italian media published CCTV screenshots of her and Mr Sollecito buying lingerie.

The treatment was split between countries, with Italian and British media reportedly more hostile to Ms Knox while American news outlets saw her as a victim of miscarriage of justice.

Reporters also discovered that she had been fined by the University of Washington for her role in a drunken party, and had once written a short story about the rape of a young girl.

But Ms Knox told the BBC that she and Kercher were more similar than alike, and hardly “on opposite sides of a Madonna/whore diagram”.

She said: “We both had fun times, and we both liked to go and hang out with friends, and we both went dancing, and we both liked to cook or go shopping. And yet we were presented to the court in starkly contrasting terms ... two idealised versions of women that people could uphold and lionise and then vilify.”

Asked by Women’s Hour host Emma Barnett whether she ever wanted to stop talking about the case, she said: “I very much do. Very often, when I feel totally overwhelmed and exhausted, I imagine that there could be a life for me where I just get to disappear and make dresses or, you know, work on cuckoo clocks.”

However, she said that conditions in the media industry have not changed and that journalists who spread misinformation are still not held accountable. She said she would continue to be an activist even if she sometimes wonders whether it is a “winning battle”.

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