IMF chief and potential French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn was just arrested for allegedly assaulting a hotel maid.This is far from the first sexual allegation concerning “DSK”, as he is known. Relatively well known is the story of his affair with an IMF subordinate in 2008.
But perhaps the most serious one, especially in light of what just happened, is the allegation that he tried to rape, or at least sexually assault, a French journalist, Tristane Banon, in 2002, and then covered it up.
The story comes via the French online citizen media Agora Vox.
Banon spoke in a TV show of the encounter with a high-ranked official, whose name was beeped out (!) in the program. Reached by Agora Vox, she confirmed that the official was indeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Here’s her story as told on TV, via Agora Vox’s transcript, translated and lightly edited by us (emphasis ours):
He asked for us to meet, and gave me an address I didn’t know. That was surprising because I know a little bit about his life, more or less, where he lives, where his offices are. … But this was nothing of the sort.
I came up in front of the building, parked my car, went up, and it was an empty apartment, completely empty, with a VCR, a TV and a bed. A very beautiful apartment, for a Gentleman of good taste. … He wanted me to hold his hand while he answered, he said “I can’t do it if you don’t hold my hand.” After the hand, it was the arm, and after the arm it was a bit further, so I stopped him. …
It ended very badly, because we ended up fighting … I told him clearly. … We fought on the ground, it was more than a couple of slaps, I kicked him, he opened my bra, tried to open my jeans. … It finished very badly. …
I got out of there and he immediately sent me a text message saying “So, are you scared of me?” … I had said the word “rape” when we were struggling to scare him, and it didn’t seem to scare him, as if he was used to it. After [the incident] he wouldn’t stop sending me text messages saying “Are you scared of me?”
These are very serious allegations, and it’s striking that they were little picked up by the French media. (Your writer, who tends to follow news pretty closely, had missed the report until it was tweeted in the wake of DSK’s New York arrest.)
Banon further alleges that the story was covered up in the media. She decided not to press charges. Her publisher took out the chapter on Strauss-Kahn from the book for which she had tried to interview him. A segment on another talk show where she mentioned the incident was cut out during editing.
She alleges that another talk show host was pressured to cancel an invitation for her to appear, because the show is live.
Agora Vox quotes Banon, explaining why she decided to not press charges and move on (emphasis ours):
Who is to say half the people I’ll meet won’t believe me? So I told myself I had to live with it. And what would I gain? Money? I don’t want his money. … And there is the fact that I live alone in Paris. … He doesn’t have the most refined methods. … I don’t think he would have had me killed, but possibly roughed up.
Welcome to France, where power, sex, dirty tricks and cozy unaccountability are one nexus.
This is perhaps the most serious allegation, after last night’s, against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, but DSK’s voracious sexual appetite has been an open secret in French political and media circles for many years.
French actress Danièle Evenou said on another TV show: “Who hasn’t been cornered by Dominique Strauss-Kahn?”
Thierry Ardisson, the host of the show where Banon first made her allegations, later commented: “Everyone knew. I have fourteen female friends who told me ‘He tried it with me.’ … I think this guy is sick. … He needs to go to rehab.”
French pundit Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette wrote: “His indiscretions are legendary, but are not reported in the press, because of the French tradition. His taste for the fairer sex has made him take many risks. He was almost sued for harrassment several times.”
When DSK was nominated for the IMF, French journalist Jean Quatremer wrote a widely-quoted blog post noting DSK’s qualifications for the job (economics professor, highly regarded finance minister of France) but warning that his taste for women might be his undoing: “He is too pressing, often on the edge of harassment. This quirk is well known in the media, but no one will talk about it (this is France). But the IMF is an international institution with Anglo-Saxon mores. One inappropriate gesture, one all-too specific innuendo, and it’s a media firestorm.”
Quatremer was fiercely criticised for infringing on Strauss-Kahn’s privacy, until the affair with his subordinate in 2008 came out. During that time, it was also alleged that DSK acted improperly by working to get a prestigious IMF internship for a female former campaign aide.
EDIT: The story incorrectly stated that the alleged events took place in 2007. They took place in 2002, and came out in 2007.