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France: The Fall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn?

On Sunday 15 May, 2011, France awoke to a political earthquake: a sex scandal involving the (now former) French president of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, arrested for an alleged sexual assault against a chambermaid in a New York hotel.

On day three after the revelation, French bloggers are still struggling to grasp the implications of this global scandal on French politics.

From “Don Juan” to “pervert”

Front page of the French daily newspaper "Liberation".

Front page of the French daily newspaper "Liberation".

The political fallout in France will be enormous. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, known as ‘DSK', was the only politician thought to be able to defeat the incumbent President Sarkozy in next year's presidential election. He was even ahead in recent polls.

Romain, blogging on Lyonitude [fr] is in shock:

Moi qui suis un strauss-kahnien des plus convaincus depuis des années, par beau temps et par orage, je suis effondré si les choses se confirment.

As one who has been a fervent supporter of Strauss-Kahn for years, in good and stormy weather, I will be shattered if this is confirmed.

Dorham1er is aghast [fr] at the magnitude of the scandal striking France:

L'affaire Bill Clinton, à coté de tout ce foutoir, c'est le chapitre guimauve d'un mauvais roman de la bibliothèque rose. Il faut sans doute remonter plus loin pour trouver trace d'une affaire aussi grave  [...] au tout début des années 80 et à la candidature d'Edward Kennedy à l'investiture démocrate

The Bill Clinton scandal, compared to this mess, is a cheesy chapter in a cheap novel for kids. One must probably go long way back to find such a damaging scandal […] to the early 1980s and Edward Kennedy's candidature to the Democrat ticket.

A few DSK supporters in denial are still sporting “Yes We Khan” banners [fr] and T-shirts on their blogs. One commenter quips:

Yes, we kahn forget (the election)

Focus on media coverage

On day one of the scandal, Sunday, cartoonist Dadou caught the general opinion on the charges facing Strauss Kahn with this sketch: that it could not be true.

The arrest of DSK was written off as harsh local United States laws and as a smear campaign. On Monday, a poll showed that 57%  were still convinced DSK was innocent [fr]. Agnès, on Le Monolecte, commented wryly [fr]:

Après le too big to fail, voici le too powerfull [sic] to rape.

After Too big to fail, here comes too powerful to rape.

On day three of the scandal, in full media frenzy (with 19 million entries related to DSK on Google France), reality is slowy sinking in – that it could be true.

The testimony of Tristane Banon, a young writer who told in 2007 [fr] how she had been sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn in 2001, is now world famous, and she gave another interview [fr] on 18 May, 2011, to citizen media outlet Agora Vox to confirm it. Testimonies are now surfacing daily in France about DSK's alleged passes [fr].

Top French blog Partageons mon avis coins the obvious question [fr] in the post ‘Je le savais’ (I knew it):

Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, if you knew that [about] DSK… Why did you boost his polls and market him as the providential man?

The pressure is now on French journalists who “knew” about DSK's attitude towards women but kept quiet, save for one journalist, Jean Quatremer, a veteran French European affairs journalist and blogger, who had written on his blog [fr] as early as 2007:

Le seul vrai problème de Strauss-Kahn est son rapport aux femmes. Trop pressant, il frôle souvent le harcèlement. Un travers connu des médias, mais dont personne ne parle (on est en France)

The single serious problem with Strauss-Kahn is his attitude with women. Too ‘heavy', he’s a border-line harasser. A problem well known to the media, but nobody mentions it (we are in France).

Sebastien Rochat pleads not guilty for DSK on the website Arret sur Images, invoking a stringent French law, article 9 of the Civil Code [fr], on the protection of private life:

Comment rester élégant et ne pas être attaqué en justice, tout en évoquant des sujets graveleux qui relèvent de la vie privée ? C'est le dilemme des journalistes dès qu'il s'agit de parler de la vie sexuelle des politiques.

How can you remain elegant and avoid being sued, while evoking lewd topics protected by [French laws on] private life?  It's the journalists’ dilemma whenever a politician's sex life is concerned.

Kerbraz [fr] slams back in a comment:

This debate has got nothing to do with today's topic. What we are talking about today is a rape, it is a crime…

Rue89 information site co-founder, Pierre Haski, has opened an online debate with a frank post, ‘Why journalists didn't talk about Strauss-Kahn's private life‘ [fr], admitting he should have broken this law more than once:

Je savais que Roland Dumas, alors qu'il était ministre des Affaires étrangères, était l'amant de Nahed Ojjeh, la fille du ministre syrien de la défense Mustafa Tlass. Fallait-il l'écrire ? Je ne l'ai pas fait, en rangeant cette information dans le domaine de la vie privée, alors que, s'agissant du chef de la diplomatie, je ne pense pas que c'était anodin. J'ai sans doute eu tort.

I knew that Roland Dumas, then French Minister of Foreign Affairs, had an affair with Nahed Ojjeh, daughter of the Syrian Minister of Defence Mustafa Tlass. Should it have been exposed? I did not, classifying this information under private life, even though it involved the top level of the Foreign Office and was no menial thing. I was probably wrong.

karlsquell [fr] does not buy it:

Et pourquoi se taire ? Pour pas perdre les interviews, parce que DSK pouvait accéder à la plus haute marche, par peur, par connivence, par lâcheté, par prudence.

Why keep silent? Not to lose interviews, because DSK could have climbed to the highest step, because of fear, connivence, cautiousness.

A side debate raging about the French press involve the pictures showing a manacled DSK coming out of the police station in New York. The law in France forbids the press to publish pictures of manacled suspects  until they are proven guilty, but they were nevertheless published.

Comments on a thread on newspaper Le Monde‘s website [fr] show a divided opinion on this law:

Henriette: Et dire que Sarkozy veut introduire le système américain. Cela donne des frissons dans le dos.

Henriette: And to think that Sarkozy wants to introduce the American system. This sends shivers down your spine.

Irca: Les Français, qui ont guillotiné Louis XVI en public et en sont fiers, ont été choqués par la vue du roi des sondages menotté.

Irca: The French who beheaded king Louis XVI  in public, and are proud of it, are shocked by the sight of the ‘king of the polls’ in manacles.
Thumbnail of Dominique Strauss-Kahn by International Monetary Fund on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
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  • davidx2

    They say that after the attack Strauss Kahn left the Sofia hotel in a hurry, leaving his cell phone behind. That statement make him look guilty, but they can’t explain why he called the hotel to inform them that he had forgotten his cell phone and they can’t explain why he told the hotel security that he was located at the airport on his way to France. If they try to say that he was scared that his personal information was on his phone and in the room, that is not true because the hotel knows the room was registered to him. If they try to say that he gave the hotel security his location because he tried to look innocent, that is not true because he is a high priced lawyer and he knows the laws of France and he knows he would stand a better chance in France than in the U.S. because France does not have extradition laws. The fact is that he had an important meeting with the German chancellor and he had overslept and missed his flight. If Strauss Kahn would have raped the maid and if he would have been guilty, he would have never called the hotel to ask about his cell phone. He is a smart lawyer and he would have left to France quickly without calling anyone or saying where he was located because France does not have extradition laws and he would be safer there. Another inconsistency in her story is that she made a statement to the police about Strauss Kahn that is definitely not true. She told the police that Strauss Kahn said this: “No, baby. Don’t worry, you’re not going to lose your job. Please, baby, don’t worry.” The word baby in reference to a woman is American street slang not French street slag and Strauss Kahn is a highly educated lawyer and does not speak in that manner. She told the police that she told Strauss Kahn that she didn’t want to lose her job for having sex with him, but that can’t be true because it’s impossible that anyone can find out if the sex occurred in a private room. Her statements are not consistent with true facts. She said she was dragged across the floor, but that can’t be true because Strauss Kahn is old and he does not have the physical build to drag that much weight across a floor. She said she slipped on a news paper bag in the room, but that cant be true because a newspaper bag does not produce enough friction to cause a slip. It’s very odd that Strauss Kahn has never done that to a maid before even though he spent half his life visiting expensive hotels. Why would he have sex with the maid if he was in a hurry to catch his plane flight. It is not out of the realm of possibility that she could have injured herself and put her blood on the bed sheets trying to falsify evidence. The blood would have to belong to Strauss Kahn to look believable and then it’s possible that Strauss Kahn might have cut himself and cleaned himself on the sheets. Strauss Kahn could have masturbated on the sheets and the maid could have found the semen and smeared it on her dress or her private parts. DNA evidence found in the room is not strong evidence because hotel clients constantly leave DNA evidence in their hotel rooms and it is not an uncommon situation. If DNA evidence is found in an alley then the evidence is more credible. They say that a room service employee cleared Strauss-Kahn’s room and found the room empty minutes before the maid entered and investigators say that Strauss-Kahn could have hid from the room service employee weighting for the maid, but the investigators can’t be telling the truth because the service employee would have found luggage in his room or heard the man taking a bath in the shower and the maid was not very attractive to make Strauss Kahn go through all that trouble. Strauss-Kahn is not a mind reader and wouldn’t know if the service employee is the maid or not and he would have come out. It’s possible that Strauss Kahn had sex with the service employee and not the maid and the DNA evidence he left behind was from sex with the service employee. They say that he asked women on dates and that makes him guilty, but that is not true because men that don’t rape women always ask women on dates. Why didn’t she tell a male employee right after the attack, so they could prevent him from leaving the hotel. Why did she weight for him to leave the hotel to report the incident. They say she is a Muslim and highly religious, but she is HIV positive and has nothing to lose. Osama Bin Laden was a Muslim and highly religious, but he killed 3 thousand people in New York city. Give me a break from all the lies!

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