In an interview with Parisian magazine ‘Le Point,’ the former head of the International Monetary Fund opens up about life after ‘l’affaire du Sofitel,’ the legal charges against him, and his comeback plans.
In his native France, disgraced former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is regularly called “the former future presidential candidate.” Indeed, some of the legal troubles that have buried his old political ambitions continue. The May 2011 criminal attempted-rape charge against him was dropped last year in Manhattan. But he still faces a civil suit brought by Times Square Sofitel chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo in the Bronx. French authorities last week dropped a preliminary investigation into a recent allegation that he had once raped a prostitute in Washington, D.C. But he still faces charges of “aggravated pimping” in Lille, north of Paris. And so DSK, as he is known, has kept a low profile at home, traveling to far-flung locales—Cambridge, Yalta, Marrakesh, Seoul—to dispense his economic advice at conferences. (Even Strauss-Kahn’s harshest critics would concede that he remains a brilliant economist.) But now, in an interview set to appear on French newsstands Thursday in the weekly Le Point, Strauss-Kahn has spoken at length about the allegations against him and his new life as a pariah.
In the cover-story interview, Strauss-Kahn tells Le Point's Hervé Gattegno that he feels he is being hunted, that his situation is being exploited by the media, and that he wants to be left in peace. “I am no longer a politician, but I’m not a celebrity either,” he says. He says he wants to be free in his movements “without being tracked, spied on, informed on as if I were guilty of anything at all.” He complains that paparazzi often keep watch outside his apartment, that the photographers that follow his car are oppressive, even if they aren’t aggressive. “The moral judgment that some make about my private life doesn’t authorize every abuse,” he tells Gattegno in the interview, which is available Wednesday in Le Point’s iPad edition.
Strauss-Kahn tells of being tracked on summer holidays, his whereabouts tweeted. During a family dinner at a restaurant in Cadaquès, Spain, a French reporter appears to have mistaken a cousin of Strauss-Kahn’s for a “young woman” love interest and spread the word.
Strauss-Kahn tells Le Point that he can understand the massive coverage of his legal issues—even if it sometimes hurts and he finds it unjust, he says. But he finds “unacceptable” the acute attention on his private life, when whomever he lunches or weekends with becomes news. Indeed, when the glossy weekly VSD recently published photos of Strauss-Kahn with a woman the publication suggested was DSK’s new girlfriend, both Strauss-Kahn and the woman named quickly threatened legal action.
And DSK finally responds personally and publicly to the cases still in progress. In the so-called Carlton Affair—named for a hotel in Lille frequented by some of the men charged in a high-profile prostitution ring case—Strauss-Kahn faces a charge of “aggravated pimping.” Alleged leaked testimony from that investigation, rich with detail about sex parties Strauss-Kahn is supposed to have attended, has been rife in the French press since that case came to light in October 2011. DSK’s lawyers have asked that the case against him be dropped; a judge is due to rule on whether or not to proceed on Nov. 28. “I have never set foot in that hotel,” Strauss-Kahn tells Le Point, a detail not strictly pertinent to the charge. But he adds, more substantively, “The reality is that some of my buddies organized parties that I participated in. Because there were prostitutes there, here I am accused of being a pimp—it’s as artificial as it is absurd.” In Le Point, he repeats the defense his lawyers have put forward publicly for months—that he didn’t know the women involved were being paid. “They have said it themselves before the law: they even had instructions not to tell me anything about it,” he tells Gattegno.
Strauss-Kahn also downplays the civil case brought by Sofitel chambermaid Diallo after the criminal attempted-rape charge against him was dropped in August 2011. “In the United States, people bring those sorts of legal proceedings only when someone is rich,” he tells Le Point. “The plaintiff’s lawyers believed that I was. I am not.”
Strauss-Kahn declines to go into detail about what exactly happened in Sofitel suite 2806, citing legal constraints he says he finds frustrating. But he tells the French magazine that he regrets a response he gave in a TV interview immediately after his return to France in September 2011, once criminal charges had been dropped in Manhattan. Then, he copped to a “moral error” but said that “what happened includes neither violence, nor coercion, nor aggression, nor any criminal act.” He tells Thursday’s edition of Le Point that, since what happened in the room was not illegal, he should just have told the anchor that it was “nobody’s business.”
The embattled economist tells Le Point, referring to his aborted plan to run for the presidency, “I caused a dual disappointment for the French people and I regret that. To those who were shocked to learn things that they didn’t suspect about my private life; and to those who were disappointed that, because of my behavior, I wasn’t in the position to do my duty.”
He finds “unacceptable” the acute attention on his private life, when whomever he lunches or weekends with becomes news.
Strauss-Kahn tells Gattegno, “For a long time, I thought that I could lead my private life as I liked without affecting the exercise of my responsibilities. Including free behavior between consenting adults; there are numerous soirées in Paris for that—you would be surprised to meet certain people there.” He continues, “I was naive … What might be legitimate for a business manager, a sportsman or an artist isn’t for a politician. I was on too different a wavelength with French society on this point for someone with political responsibilities. I was mistaken.”
He hints about his new ambitions, even suggesting he has traveled to give economic advice directly to foreign heads of state on their invitation. He tells the French magazine he would like to work on large-scale international projects, help change lives in places that need help. But, he concedes to Le Point, “For the moment, I am still hindered by my situation,” suggesting he hasn’t had his last word yet.