We’ve had plenty of politicians, even presidents, who’ve served under clouds. But a court-appointed Zulu King? That’s too much.
The good news is that a New Orleans judge agrees and has refused to reinstate Naaman Stewart, who’d won a narrow election for the coveted Carnival honor only to be deposed by sexual assault allegations. Instead his vanquished opponent, George Rainey, will preside over the city streets come Mardi Gras.
That Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club officials would find themselves in Civil District Court Judge Christopher Bruno’s courtroom seems strangely fitting, given how closely the storied krewe’s selection process mimics an actual election. Candidates for king run full-blown, public campaigns. There are endorsements, including this year from Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who backed Rainey. There’s also significant overlap between Zulu membership and the city’s political leadership; one former Zulu King, Jay Banks, won an election last year to the City Council. This year there was even a challenge to the results amid accusations of balloting irregularities.
So it’s probably no surprise that some of the same societal trends hitting the political world are affecting Zulu too.
Accused in a lawsuit of assaulting an employee who had him on tape, Stewart, a former president of the organization, was not only removed from its royal court but from the krewe itself. Bruno reinstated his membership, agreeing with his contention that Zulu had not followed its own procedures, but stopped short of returning him to the throne.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Stewart, you have been caught up in the #MeToo movement,” the judge said.
It’s true. The long-coming backlash against sexual misconduct is holding powerful men to account in just about every corner of American life. This case may be more colorful than most, but it’s also sadly familiar.