How American reporter's female-only Qatar World Cup security check caused controversy

'Respect if foreign to you and something you maybe don't quite understand' <i>(Image: PA Images)</i>
'Respect if foreign to you and something you maybe don't quite understand' (Image: PA Images)

Before a ball had even been kicked, this was comfortably the most controversial World Cup in the competition’s 92-year history.

Host country Qatar’s record of human rights abuses, the deaths of migrant workers involved in the construction of their glamorous venues and their treatment of LGBTQ+ people meant there was a fierce backlash against the tournament.

As the group stage nears its conclusion, the event continues to attract negative headlines, as was the case when a prominent American journalist attended the USA’s recent 1-1 draw with Wales.

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Who is the journalist?

35-year-old Fox Sports reporter Jenny Taft, who covers American Football. That’s the one with the helmets and the quarterbacks, not ‘soccer’. She also reported from the 2015 Women’s World Cup, and is best known for anchoring the Skip and Shannon: Undisputed sports talk show.

Why is she in the news?

Upon entering the Al Rayyan stadium for her country’s match on day two of the tournament, Taft was taken through a female-only security checkpoint. She then uploaded a video to TikTok and Twitter, in which she said: “I just had to go through a special date in Qatar for ladies only. Somehow I don’t feel that special about it.”

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How did that go down? 

Not particularly well. There were numerous negative replies, including: “Jenny Taft is the embodiment of racism purporting to be feminism (white feminism). How dare Qatar have a policy that women have the right to be searched by other women? Arab women do not need Jenny from Fox News to save them.”

Other comments were less polite.

How bad did the fallout get?

Lama Alhamawi, a reporter for Arab News, recorded a video criticising Taft. Alhamawi’s publication claimed she had “put the American reporter firmly in her place.”

And did she?

At the start of her video, she said: “I’m going to do my very best not to focus on the fact that you work for Fox News, which judging by the biased rhetoric in your video is pretty self-explanatory.”

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Alhamawi went on to explain that there are separate gates in order to ensure that women don’t have to be searched by men and vice versa, adding: “It’s a matter of respecting someone’s religious beliefs and boundaries, and making them feel comfortable as they are entering this country.”

She wrapped up by saying: “The best word to describe it is ‘respect’. Now, judging by the way you conducted your video and executed it, that’s a word that’s foreign to you and something that you maybe don’t quite understand.”

How did Taft respond?

She deleted her video.