Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s career may be delayed—and possibly destroyed—but he can still dominate the front pages with his scandals. In the new book Affaires DSK: La Contre-enquête (DSK Affairs: The Counter-Investigation), by Strauss-Kahn biographer and confidant Michel Taubmann, the one-time favorite for the French presidency lays out never-before-heard details of the series of sex scandals that have ruined his presidential prospects.
In the book, Strauss-Kahn calls his sexual encounter with Times Square Hotel Sofitel chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo “consensual but stupid” and suggests it was her idea. He admits to a having an open sex life and participating in sex parties, but in the spotlight of the pimping probe known as the Carlton Affair, he says he abhors prostitution. Meanwhile, Taubmann, a journalist and outspoken Strauss-Kahn loyalist who has also written a biography of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, takes care of lobbing conspiracy theories—more impressive in their quantity than their quality.
The book's release Thursday in France came days after Edward Jay Epstein's similarly conspiratorial piece in The New York Review of Books. (Taubmann has said he and Epstein traded information for their accounts.) The conspiracy offensive saw Strauss-Kahn, now exiled from politics, back on the front page—capturing covers of three French weeklies. For his part, Taubmann flooded French media with firebrand interviews declaring Strauss-Kahn had been “trapped”—a theory Strauss-Kahn himself already floated in a September TV interview on his return to France. “A trap, it's possible. A conspiracy, we'll see,” said Strauss-Kahn coyly during the September TV interview. But by late Thursday, Strauss-Kahn, whom Taubmann claims he interviewed six times in New York and Paris for the book and who is heavily quoted throughout, seemed to take his distance. “In the face of the recent multiplication of interpretations about events concerning me, I insist on asserting that I am not committed by anyone's writings, declarations or accounts, often inexact,” Strauss-Kahn stated through his lawyers. “I reserve my explanations for justice authorities, be they French or American.”
In Affaires DSK, Taubmann describes a world where—for disparate reasons, when they are surmised at all—everyone is out to get Strauss-Kahn. It is a world in which Sofitel chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo may be a secret agent (based on the several cell phones and multiple Social Security cards Taubmann reveals that she had). It is also a world where French novelist Tristane Banon, who accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in 2003, has Strauss-Kahn tangled up in her daddy issues. Criminal charges in the Diallo case were dropped in August—a decision Taubmann says constitutes “an unequivocal exoneration of the accused” and says it is “indecent to let any doubt subsist about his innocence.” A civil case still looms. Meanwhile, Paris authorities declined to pursue a criminal attempted-rape charge against Strauss-Kahn in the Banon case in October, although they suggested he may have faced a sexual-assault charge had the shorter statute of limitations not already expired. Diallo lawyers have manifestly followed the Banon and Carlton affairs to bolster their civil suit.
Taubmann sets the tone by highlighting Strauss-Kahn's uncharacteristic paranoia in April, a month before his New York arrest. At that point, the then-IMF chief had already decided to seek the Socialist nomination for the 2012 presidential election, but planned to declare his candidacy in June. Shortly after Strauss-Kahn's arrest, French press sources revealed that Strauss-Kahn told them off the record at that time that, on the campaign trail, he might be attacked on three counts: “women, money, and [his] Jewishness.” More specifically, he was quoted as saying, there could be a plot to, say, use “a woman paid hundreds of thousands of dollars” who would claim he “raped her in a parking lot.” As Taubmann puts it, “women, as everyone knows, are his Achilles's heel.” But the author cites a Strauss-Kahn associate who claims that, more than the French right-wing, Strauss-Kahn feared a set-up by the Russians, who had opposed to his IMF leadership. Readers are then left to wonder, since we hear little more about the Russians in Taubmann's 288-page book.
In the days before his explosive May 14 arrest in Manhattan, on Taubmann's account, Strauss-Kahn is in Washington, mixing business with pleasure. “Doctor Strauss works enormously. But Mister Kahn likes to have fun,” Taubmann writes. Swinger friends who double as political associates have arrived from France for campaign preparations during the day and sex parties at the W hotel at night. But Strauss-Kahn's free-love days were winding down, with the G8 summit in his native France two weeks away and a presidential run looming beyond.
“Apart from my free sex life, which I am not the only one to lead in the world of politics or business, and which isn't illegal, I had nothing to reproach myself for. I didn't imagine that anyone could blow stories out of proportion to destroy me,” Strauss-Kahn tells Taubmann.
Each of the three men who visited DSK in Washington that week are today under investigation by French authorities in the Carlton Affair, which broke in October and which Taubmann calls “a slow poison that is destroying [Strauss-Kahn’s] reputation.” The men face allegations ranging from pimping to misuse of public funds—for example, one of the men visiting Washington allegedly expensed sex parties to his public-works firm. “During these 'gallant soirées,' invited by his friends, he never spends a penny,” Taubmann writes of Strauss-Kahn. “In the press, my name is associated with prostitution. It's unbearable,” Strauss-Kahn tells Taubmann. “I participated in libertine soirées, it's true. But usually, the women participating in these soirées aren't prostitutes. Swinging and prostitution don't go together,” Strauss-Kahn explains. And he adds that “when someone introduces you to his girlfriend, you don't ask if she's a prostitute. And when someone invites you to a soirée, you don't ask to see the bill, to see whether it is your friend or his company paying for it.” Taubmann suggests that another visitor to Washington, a police commissioner advising Strauss-Kahn on security matters for his campaign, alerted the IMF chief that his e-mail account had been hacked and that confidential information was in the hands of Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party. The police friend also warns Strauss-Kahn to “be careful about girls.” “Don't worry,” Strauss-Kahn responds. “From now on, I am not looking at any woman. I have blinders on,” he says, cupping his eyes. The very next day, Strauss-Kahn would be coaxed off a plane at JFK and arrested for the attempted rape of Nafissatou Diallo.
“Apart from my free sex life, which I am not the only one to lead in the world of politics or business, and which isn't illegal, I had nothing to reproach myself for. I didn't imagine that anyone could blow stories out of proportion to destroy me,” Strauss-Kahn tells Taubmann—not the only time in the book that the would-be presidential candidate appears so preciously oblivious. “Nothing would have happened if I hadn't had those consensual but stupid relations with Nafissatou Diallo. That day, I opened the door to all the other affairs.”
“That day” proves a trove of conspiracy for Taubmann. According to Taubmann’s account, Strauss-Kahn used his IMF BlackBerry, one of several phones he uses, to check his email and make some phone calls to Paris upon waking that fateful Saturday morning. Taubmann points out the phone's “great market value.” “Anyone who seized it could sell it for a very high price to a gang, a state, or a firm interested by the ultra-sensitive information it contains on the markets.” The writer suggests Strauss-Kahn's sidetrip to New York on the way to Paris was mainly a chance to see his daughter Camille and meet her new Irish boyfriend, Pierce.
Taubmann writes that Strauss-Kahn was in the shower before his lunchdate with Camille and Pierce, when Nafissatou Diallo entered the suite. Taubmann argues at length that Diallo made a “professional error” in entering the room of a departing guest—“abnormal” behavior—and he writes that she should quickly have seen from the wide array of personal effects, including Strauss-Kahn's sleep apnea apparatus, that the room was still occupied. (Taubmann wonders whether the room-service attendant who told her otherwise and Diallo's supervisor might be in on any plot.) Taubmann claims Diallo’s lawyers’ description of the attack is “totally impossible” and “contrary to the laws of physics.” As Taubmann tells it, when Strauss-Kahn, naked, sees Diallo for the first time, “the young Guinean seems surprised, but not in the least terrified.” She crosses the room to leave, “but she hardly hurries.” He writes that she turned around and “looks him straight in the eye. Looks ostentatiously at his genitals. The flesh is weak. Dominique Strauss-Kahn saw a proposition. The situation amuses him. Rarely in his life has he refused the possibility of a moment of pleasure. He does not resist the temptation of fellatio. The act is quick, very quick ... about five to six minutes.”
Once sexual assault is ruled out, Taubmann argues, readers now must wonder about the nature of the relationship. Strauss-Kahn tells Taubmann that he didn't pay Diallo. The writer says the notion that a 32-year-old woman would feel “a sudden and disinterested desire” for a naked man her father's age “appears unlikely ... except to DSK.” “The aging Don Juan lacks lucidity about himself. And is hardly interested in the chambermaid. When Nafissatou Diallo offers him a little treat, he doesn't question the lady's intentions.” But Taubmann does. He suggests it might be “implicit” that Diallo is a prostitute, and in that scenario, she expected to return after her client had left and find her payment. He suggests that when she didn't find it, she sought revenge.
But Taubmann quickly says he finds the prostitute thesis implausible. Instead, he explores various other conspiracy theories. He wonders why a hotel employee he describes as a video-surveillance engineer entered the room twice just after Strauss-Kahn left and posits Strauss-Kahn was being watched. He wonders about a link between the disappearance of Strauss-Kahn's IMF BlackBerry and Diallo's presence in room 2806, about whether she was there to steal the phone, to distract Strauss-Kahn with sex, or to set him up by framing an attempted rape, after which he wouldn't dare complain about a stolen phone. (Taubmann cites sources suggesting “networks of Guinean women specialized in accounts of imaginary rape with the sole goal of extorting money from wealthy men” is “classic.”) In any case, Taubmann claims the video-surveillance tape of Diallo throughout the hotel after the incident shows her “incredibly relaxed.” Through the rest of his account, Taubmann cites close ties between the NYPD and Sarkozy. Taubmann suggests the French may be involved, that they may have greenlighted Strauss-Kahn's arrest, and later redlighted his conditional release, before he wound up at Rikers.
Taubmann is similarly suspicious of the Tristane Banon case. The novelist, 30 years Strauss-Kahn's junior, pressed charges against Strauss-Kahn, claiming he tried to rape her during an interview in 2003—and just as Diallo's credibility was suffering in New York. Taubmann writes “the Banon Affair, for sure, was planned in the electoral campaign program.” Taubmann dissects her troubled childhood; interprets scenes in her novels as virtual testimony about her incident with Strauss-Kahn; makes curious observations about her character; including calling plastic surgery she allegedly had done at 20 “extremely rare at that age.” He outlines her troubled relationship with her estranged father, pointedly a Jew raised in Morocco—like Strauss-Kahn—and less estranged than she has had observers believe—Taubmann writes “she symbolically killed him off.” “Near the end of the interview, I really believed I saw an 'opening' in the behavior of Tristane Banon,” Strauss-Kahn tells Taubmann. “We were in a game of reciprocal seduction.” After this Taubmann editorializes that “some might be shocked that DSK would mix flirting and work in this way, especially with a woman 30 years his junior. This situation sometimes happens. The only problem is the consent.”
Upon the book's release on Thursday, Banon told French TV she had no intention of reading the book. But she called it “indecent” and its arguments “farcical.” In New York, meanwhile, Diallo's lawyers were similarly unimpressed. “Strauss Kahn’s absurd claim that Ms. Diallo was told to steal his BlackBerry and somehow looked at him seductively and consented to his violent and abusive sexual acts is complete fantasy,” said her lawyers Kenneth Thompson and Douglas Wigdor in a statement. “We look forward to questioning him at trial about the sick and deranged acts he committed against Ms. Diallo.”
Like Edward Jay Epstein before him, Taubmann raises more far questions than he answers, carpet-bombing readers with suggestive queries in stuttered layers of dizzying mystery. Indeed, that seems entirely the point.