In his first television interview since his May 14th arrest on charges of attempted rape, Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that it was all a “moral failing.” The former managing director of the International Monetary Fund described himself as “simply content to express himself” and said that what had happened was “not violence or force or aggression or any other criminal act.”
Protesters, mostly women, gathered outside the TF1 building in Paris and shouted “DSK shame on you” and “TF1 accomplice” while holding up signs saying “DSK = a denial of justice. When a woman says no, it’s no.” According to Le Monde, Strauss-Kahn avoided the protesters by using a rear entrance to the TF1 building.
As the French blog Rue89 comments, Strauss-Kahn did not hesitate to paint himself as a victim. He said that he had made an “error” not only in regard to his wife and children, but “to the French” and that he would regret what had happened and thought that he would never cease regretting it; that he had “paid severely” and would keep paying for the rest of his life. Strauss-Kahn — who had brought a copy of the New York prosecutor’s report with him, spoke harshly of the US justice system, saying that he had “great fear” during his arrest, had felt “humiliated even before saying one word” and was “shocked” at the “role of money” in the American justice system.
Strauss-Kahn still faces a civil suit brought against him by New York hotel maid Naffisatou Diallo. In the interview, he said that she clearly had a “financial motivation.” French writer Tristane Banon has also accused him of attempting sexual assault; Strauss-Kahn said that her charges are “imaginary.” He is pursuing a defamation case against her.
Considered a leading presidential candidate prior to his arrest, Strauss-Kahn said that he is “obviously” no longer a candidate and that he would “take time to reflect on the future.”
Strauss-Kahn was interviewed by Claire Chazal, a friend of his wife, on TF1, France’s most popular channel.
The New York Times said the interview appeared to be “carefully orchestrated and felt as if it had been almost rehearsed” with Strauss-Kahn “saying what he wished.” Chazal herself “looked uncomfortable, her arms crossed, and was not aggressive in her questioning.” Despite her personal connection to Strauss-Kahn’s wife, Chazal did not recuse herself and the station itself “rejected the criticism and said it was simply interested in the news value of the interview.”
Thibault de Montbrial, the French lawyer for Diallo, said the interview was “a public relations exercise, without any spontaneity, neither in the questions nor the replies — scripted down to each gesture.” Former minister of transportation Dominique Bussereau said via Twitter that Strauss-Kahn appeared to be “an old, terribly insincere comedian and, in the end, terribly indecent.” Rue89 quotes Guillaume Pelletier, who says that the interview was “less a debate between DSK and the French than a debate between DSK and himself, his conscience and himself.” Noting that a team of lawyers and advisers had been “heavily involved” in negotiations for Strauss-Kahn’s interview, the BBC‘s Christian Fraser says:
This was a very astute politician who wanted to present himself as a victim.
In all it was a polished performance from a politician who has had plenty of time to consider the questions he might be asked.
The reaction in the coming days from his party and the public will tell us whether there is sympathy with that position and whether ultimately his rehabilitation is possible.
Is “rehabilitation” possible for Strauss-Kahn? If it is, it is a disappointing testament to the lack of concern and credence given to the claims of Diallo and Banon and to victims of sexual violence everywhere.
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