The following post is part of a new series that brings a fresh perspective to global news from our team of foreign correspondents (The links throughout this story lead to French sites.)
It’s the “he said-she said” story of the year, and it’s not over yet. The sexual peccadilloes of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the onetime head of the International Monetary Fund, continue to fascinate France and provide hilarious fodder for its comedians.
DSK, as he is known here, has admitted to a dalliance with a hotel maid in New York in May. The maid contends she was sexually assaulted. That case is winding its way through the New York civil courts. Meanwhile, here in France, the police are investing an allegation by a young would-be journalist, Tristane Banon, who says DSK tried to rape her during an interview in an empty Paris apartment eight years ago. DSK has dismissed Ms. Banon’s accusation as “fantasy.”
Police questioned Ms. Banon and DSK together on Thursday behind closed doors. She then went on national television to sound off (Mr. Strauss-Kahn did the same last week, saying his encounter with the maid in New York was “a moral failing” on his part.) She told TF1 she doesn’t hate him but has “contempt” for him and described him as “arrogant” and “cold.” She stuck to her story.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn, once seen as the Socialists’ best hope to win the presidency after 17 years in the political wilderness, has tried to project a kind of steely dignity. But he’s become an object of fun.
Take Les Guignols, a popular TV show that portrays French celebrities as puppets and has been skewering the French elite for years. The DSK puppet used to be dressed in a suit and tie. Now it appears in a leopard-print bathrobe, a cheeky reminder of how the sexual encounter in the New York hotel room began. “Excuse my outfit,” his puppet-persona says each time he appears on the show. “I just got out of the shower.”
On Europe 1 radio on Friday, the political comedian Nicolas Canteloup did a naughtier send-up in an impersonation of DSK, imagining the atmosphere in the room when the ex-IMF chief met with the police and Ms. Banon. “This was just our second date,” the prankster has Mr. Strauss-Kahn saying. “We chatted about this and that … and I’m confident that I’ll succeed with her in the future.”
Meanwhile, the magazine Médias reports in its newly released fall issue that the DSK affair, unsurprisingly, has been a circulation and financial bonanza for the French media. It said sales of Libération, the left-wing daily, soared 113 per cent the first day the story broke in May.
The two main TV channels each counted an additional 1.2 million viewers for the evening news shows. The author predicts no let-up in interest: “Now that the time of crocodile tears is over, autumn could be venomous.”