DSK apology leaves millions in dark

By Catherine Field

It could have been scripted for any American politician caught with his pants down.

Yes, he had done wrong and was sorry. But he was not as evil as his enemies had painted and he too had suffered. He had learnt from his mistakes. And he loved his wife, no, he adored her. She was his rock.

This was no Bible Belt congressman on US TV. This was Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62, the disgraced head of the International Monetary Fund, making his mea culpa to France, the country which traditionally sniggers over "Anglo-Saxon" apologies for sexual jinks.

His 23-minute interview on the main television channel TF 1 yesterday was his first since he returned to France on September 4 after a sex scandal in New York that saw a man at the apex of power fall into an abyss.

But millions yearning for the truth about what happened in room 2806 of the Sofitel on May 14 or even a touch of raw emotion, were left hungry.

Dressed in a sombre black suit, white shirt and blue tie, his face the colour and mobility of putty, the ex-Finance Minister offered what seemed a well-rehearsed performance in which contrition mixed with combativeness.

He primly described his sexual encounter with maid Nafissatou Diallo, 30 years his junior, as "a moral mistake of which I am not proud".

"I have paid the price and am still paying for it," he said, explaining that he had renounced his ambitions of running for the French presidency in next year's elections. But he gave no details of what actually happened, saying only that the sex had not been "paid" nor had there been "violence, coercion, aggression or any punishable act".

He brandished the prosecutor's report that had led to criminal charges against him being dropped. He said Diallo had lied and was financially motivated in pursuing him in a civilian lawsuit. "Was it a trap? That's possible. A plot? We'll see."

Deferentially treated by presenter Claire Chazal, Strauss-Kahn said his detention was "hell" in which he had felt "crushed, humiliated even before I could say a word". Inter-spersed with this were his apologies, as American in flavour as the lawyers who had helped him in New York.

He apologised to France for making it miss its "appointment" with him. He apologised to his wife Anne Sinclair, "an exceptional woman ... without her I couldn't have carried on". He apologised to women generally, saying that he could "understand their reactions" but ensured them of his "respect".

Outside the studio, about 50 feminists demonstrated, holding up a banner that read: "DSK = Denial of justice. When a woman says no, it's no." In the chatrooms, many comments seemed strongly negative, branding Strauss-Kahn a phony and his interviewer - a friend of his wife - a patsy. Some were positive, saying he had been victimised or paying tribute for wanting to clear the air.

Former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin may also have spoken for many when he summed up the rather queasy (and un-French) mix of prudishness, regret and self-esteem that had been put on display. "The decent thing to do would have been to keep silent," he said.

- NZ Herald

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