Was it the justified outing of a minor celebrity cheater or a cruel and dishonest act of self-promotion? The debate over model Melissa Stetten's now infamous tweets about soap actor Brian Presley's clumsy, malapropism-laden attempt to hit on her during a cross-country fight has gone viral. In case you missed it, the 22 year-old Stetten put her inflight WiFi to devastatingly clever use the night of June 6 as she flew on a Virgin America redeye from LA to New York, livetweeting every embarrassing detail of her married seatmate's adulterous come-ons. By the weekend, People, Glamour and the Guardian had picked up the story, and Presley -- a 34 year-old father and star of the old ABC soap Port Charles - issued a blanket denial on his Facebook fan page of Stetten's account of the flight.
The media take-down of Stetten has been as quick as it was foreseeable. If there's one enduring truth, it's that virtually every woman who relates a story of inappropriate or violent sexual behavior by a famous (or even not-so-famous) man will be accused of making it up. Right on cue, the Daily Mail quickly attacked the model's reliability, citing as evidence a tweet Stetten sent out earlier this year claiming to have won the MegaMillions lotto; they neglecting to mention it had been an April Fool's joke. The British tabloid also cited Stetten's reference to a recent miscarriage, her relationship with 51 year-old shock jock Anthony Cumia, and her anti-depressant prescription as reasons to question her veracity. Though Stetten is hardly alleging rape, the Mail's attack on Stetten is reminiscent of the discrediting of the accuser in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case - and in countless other cases before it. And while the media go after Stetten's credibility, Presley's online defenders have turned vicious, predictably calling her a "cunt" and a "pretentious passive aggressive bitch."