Strauss-Kahn's Cloudy Future In Politics

Jul 14, 2011
Originally published on July 14, 2011 8:36 am

As the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn appears to weaken, many in France are speculating about whether the former head of the International Monetary Fund can revive his political career. New charges in France and the nonstop media coverage of the saga seem to be weighing against him.

French writer Tristane Banon, 32, says she had to fight to get Strauss-Kahn off of her in 2003 after she met him in an apartment for an interview. Last week, she filed charges of attempted rape against him in a Paris court. On Wednesday, she gave her first television interview about the incident.

Banon said for eight years she followed advice from everyone — from her mother to fellow journalists to legal advisers — not to bring charges against Strauss-Kahn, who was both powerful and the former husband of her godmother.

"I thought I could forget it, put it in a box and put it away, but it hasn't been possible," she said. "The only way to put an end to this in my head was to go to court and let justice decide."

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, a French columnist for the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, said she believes Banon is extremely credible and that her claims cannot be dismissed by his friends and political supporters.

"I think they are mad if they think that he can run again," she said. "With what's come out about his private life, do you think this man can go to international conferences? Do you think he can go speak to the president of the United States in the White House?"

Christophe Barbier, editor of weekly news magazine L'Express, says the Banon case could explode or fizzle out, depending on whether judges think there is solid enough evidence for a trial.

"Even if this case doesn't go to court, these charges paint a psychological portrait of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as someone who cannot control his sexual impulses," he said. "That will continue to destroy his reputation and keep him from returning to politics."

Strauss-Kahn's supporters continue to argue that he has suffered a great injustice, but their numbers seem to be dwindling. Before his arrest in May, Strauss-Kahn topped the presidential polls in France and was seen as the man who could lead the Socialist Party back to power. But a recent survey shows more than 65 percent of French people don't want to see Strauss-Kahn run.

And it's not just the womanizing. There has been a lot of focus in the French media on Strauss-Kahn's wealth and fancy lifestyle in America.

At a news kiosk on a busy corner in Paris' 18th arrondissement, Laurent Maze says the reports of Strauss-Kahn's behavior toward women are bad enough, but his values are also the wrong ones for France.

"I think that it's a good thing that actually he doesn't come back to France and run for the presidential election, because he's a man who spends a lot of money on very expensive hotels," said Maze, who describes himself as a left-wing voter. "He's got a way of life which is contrary to the way of life of many French people."

Maze says French people are fed up with Strauss-Kahn and his problems. Pointing to a newspaper, he says the war in Libya, the euro crisis and unemployment are the country's real problems. It's time, Maze says, for France to leave Strauss-Kahn to his fate.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

Here in the U.S., the sexual assault case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been falling apart. In his native France, this has prompted speculation about whether Strauss-Kahn could revive his political career and maybe make a run for the presidency. Well, maybe not. As Eleanor Beardsley reports, new charges in France and the nonstop news coverage of the saga seem to be turning people off to a possible comeback.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Thirty-two-year-old French writer Tristane Banon says she had to fight to get Dominique Strauss-Kahn off her in 2003 after she met him in an apartment to interview him. Last week she filed charges of attempted rape against Strauss-Kahn in a Paris court. Last night Banon gave her first television interview about the incident.

TRISTANE BANON: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: She said for eight years she followed everyone's advice - from her mother to fellow journalists to legal advisors - not to bring charges against Strauss-Kahn, who was both powerful and the former husband of her godmother.

BANON: (Through translator) I thought I could forget it, put it in a box and put it away. But it hasn't been possible. The only way to put an end to this in my head was to go to court and let justice decide.

BEARDSLEY: Anne Elisabeth Moutet is a French columnist for the British newspaper the Sunday Telegraph. She believes Banon is extremely credible and that her claims will not be easily dismissed by his friends and political supporters.

ANNE ELISABETH MOUTET: I think they're all mad if they think that he can run again. With what's come out about his private life, do you think this man can go to international conferences? Do you think he can go and speak with the president of the United States in the White House?

BEARDSLEY: Christophe Barbier is editor of weekly news magazine L'Express. He says the Banon case could explode or fizzle out, depending on whether judges think there is solid enough evidence for a trial.

CHRISTOPHE BARBIER: (Through translator) Even if this case doesn't go to court, these charges paint a psychological portrait of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as someone who cannot control his sexual impulses. That will continue to destroy his reputation and keep him from returning to politics.

BEARDSLEY: At a news kiosk on a busy corner in Paris's 18th arrondissement, Laurent Maze is buying newspapers. Maze, who describes himself as a left-wing voter, says the reports of Strauss-Kahn's behavior toward women are bad enough, but his values are also the wrong ones for France.

LAURENT MAZE: I think that it's a good thing that actually he doesn't come back to France and run for the presidential election, because he's a man who spends a lot of money on very expensive hotels. He's got a way of life which is contrary to the way of life of many French people.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR news, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.