French Media Reaction to Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Friday, May 20, 2011


The story of former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault against a hotel maid has been all over the American media this week. Surprisingly, it has also been all over the French media, which normally turns a blind eye to the politico's transgressions. Not anymore, says NPR’s Paris correspondent Eleanor Beardsley.

Comments [14]


Five weeks after On The Media's segment on DSK, the facts are being checked and the accuser's credibility is being questioned, and the case appears to be falling apart. I can't help but wonder, does Eleanor still feel that the chambermaid is getting a fair trial with the likes of DSK, and that the perp walk was justified? Will On The Media return to this story and reflect on the shift in the case, or is the staff content with the disgrace and ruin of a formerly great and potentially innocent international leader? Given On The Media's unambiguous pre-trial indictment of the man, does this change demand no self reflection from the producers? Why do Americans do this to their own people?

Jul. 01 2011 09:13 AM
FrankieZ from NJ

I listened to this interview twice -- not because of the content but because of the intriguing sound of Eleanor Beardsley's part-Southern, part-French accent. I'm not making fun of her voice. It is just the most interesting combination of accents.

May. 23 2011 08:53 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

I'm pleased that Bob mentioned the 'class aspect' to the reaction of French chattering circles to the rape of this woman. Of course, we have an aspiring ruling class of such people here. I have yet to see anyone on NPR note the resemblance of the French reactions to the reactions of the bi-coastal chattering classes in this country to strikingly similar behavior by Bill Clinton. Even Eleanor Beardsley's description of Strauss-Kahn could be applied word-for-word to Clinton. Does the scandal involving an IMF leader, a caviar Socialist to boot, have any resonance to our Secretary of State, I wonder? The press doesn't ask, for reasons I can guess.

In an earlier time, Ted Kennedy received the same indulgence after Chappaquiddick - he's doing such wonderful work, you see, that a matter like this involving a trivial underling should be put in perspective. Call it the 'Mary Jo Kopechne died so that the Allergen Labelline and Consumer Protection Act could live' type of defense of the powerful. This class bigotry/behavior enabling apparently had its effect on a number of younger Kennedy males, to judge from their behavior.

Rightists both here and abroad (i.e., Berlusconi) commit private outrages, too. But they are seldom defended or excused by the establishment press and academia of their countries.

May. 23 2011 07:56 PM
Olivier Barthelemy from Paris, France

Last but not least, Sarkozy, who may well be the first president in decades *not* having affairs (he divorced and married an ex-model right at the beginning of his presidency, depriving us of a quite enjoyable musician in the process
is probably the worst of our last 3 presidents.

May. 23 2011 03:28 PM
Olivier Barthelemy from Paris, France

@Tyrone: you're assuming lots of things:
1- that people who don't get caught doing something you disapprove of, are not caught because they're not doing it, rather than just because they're good at not being caught. Is someone who has an affair, and get caught, worse than someone who has an affair, and doesn't get caught ?
2- that character is important
3- that personal flaws directly translate to job performance issues.
4- that the definition of flaws is universal. Is falling out of love, and, in a consensual way, taking up with someone else, a flaw (Miterrand's way)? is it better or worse than doing the same, but hiding from the public (Chirac's way) and/or the original partner (no example). Is who you do that with (boy, girl) of importance ? Is what one actually does and likes in the bedroom of importance (sodomy is still illegal in some states I think ?) ?

My point is, you're opening a can of worms. Politicians are men, with the same issues. Plenty of people with those same issues contribute well enough to society, I don't see why politicians couldn't. I'm a lot more concerned about financial honesty and intellectual capacity than about affairs or the heart, or just sex.

May. 23 2011 09:10 AM
Olivier Barthelemy from Paris, France

There's a huge difference between the usual affairs and this (alleged) rape. We don't care what happens between consenting adults, we don't tolerate rape either.

It's not so much our attitude to sex that has changed, as the gravity of what happened. Hopefully we won't become like the US, where it seems being able to control one's libido (or to have none ?) is more important than one's ability to do their job.

May. 23 2011 08:57 AM
Mort Moore from The Great Blogosphere

Regina, I can't find support for the connotation you attribute to the word, "chambermaid." No online dictionary that I could find supports it. For instance, says "A maid who cleans and cares for bedrooms, as in a hotel."
Neither do any of my physical, paper-and-cover, dictionaries support your view.
Do you have a reference for your interpretation of the word?

May. 23 2011 08:37 AM
Marc NAIMARK from France

Ugh. The French media are not at all introspective about their role in allowing DSK to at best, abuse his position with women. There's no soul searching here, in large part because the media are literally sleeping with politicians.

Off the top of my head, just a few long-term relationships:
Anne Sinclair, wife of socialist minister Dominique Strauss Kahn
Beatrice Schoenberg, partner of minister Jean Louis Borloo
Audrey Pulvar, partner of deputy Arnaud Montebourg
Marie Drucker, partner of minister François Baroin
Christine Ockrent, partner of minister Bernard Kouchner
Valérie Trierweiler, partner of socialist presidential candidate François Hollande

I don't think there's a single male journalist involved with a female politician

May. 23 2011 07:23 AM

The man has already been forced to resign one of the highest positions in international politics, and Eleanor herself has painted the picture for us of how unpleasantly he is already being treated by American media and law enforcement, even though no trial has been held to overturn his presumption of innocence? Some would argue that the so-called "chambermaid" is getting much better than a fair trial: She is getting a trial by rape-obsessed American media under which her assailant is presumed guilty and robbed of his career without the courts or the law even needing to get involved. If Strauss-Kahn is guilty of the charges, then he deserves the punishment he's receiving without question. However, in the event that he is not guilty of the crime, then American society is guilty of ruinously victimizing another innocent man, which is something that unfortunately happens much too frequently in situations like this.

May. 22 2011 09:04 PM

There is a conflicting narrative in this segment that is very troubling to me and I feel the need to point out. In answer to one of Bob's questions, Eleanor comments that: "It is completely illegal in France to show pictures of someone handcuffed before they've been convicted," which Eleanor somehow follows to the inexplicable conclusion that, "The American justice system might be harsh, but look at it, this chambermaid is getting a fair trial with someone the likes of Dominique Strauss-Kahn," which begs the question, how do public images of an unconvicted defendant constitute "a fair trial"? There hasn't been any trial yet. Strauss-Kahn maybe guilty of the charges facing him, but he could just as well be completely innocent.

May. 22 2011 08:56 PM
Lenore from New York City

Yes this is a class issue and a privacy issue. But it is also a GENDER issue. I would like to see/hear discussion of this case as a case of male privilege. Once again, the gender aspect of issues gets overlooked. A powerful MAN is accused of attempting to rape a WOMAN. We should talk about that as such.

May. 22 2011 10:35 AM

I have been wondering about the media's repeated use of the term "chambermaid" rather than "maid" or "housekeeper" when talking about the hotel employee. The term "chambermaid" is generally used in literature and films to describe a maid who is sexy or romantic. I have never heard it used in real life when referring to a hotel's housekeeping staff. I truly think it is a term that is loaded with sexual meaning and find it off-putting for it to be used when talking about a sex crime. This is about a sexual attack, not about a mutually agreed-to sexual dalliance.

May. 22 2011 09:13 AM
Tyrone from Cambridge, MA

The whole "private matter" position of the French, especially when it concerns people in power, is not just hypocritical, it's foolish. How a person behaves in private is the true indicator of their character. How good of an actor they are in public is not.

May. 22 2011 07:51 AM
bob minder from wumb boston

We use these "exposures," largely directed by Mother Media, to feel utterly superior to the perpetrators and to express our plentiful supply of Media-bred venom. Do you think it might make a difference if we all considered ourselves guilty? Why? We've raised and participate whole-heartedly in a culture that features sexuality in a thoroughly pervasive and hardly pure way. I know that I grew up in a high school scene where teen males wanted to see how much they could 'get' off so and so. As an individual may go to alcoholic anonymous meetings or sex addiction sessions, so we as a culture need to take on a sincere course of improvement. The problem? We are so afraid of some dastardly deprivation of my individual right to do what I want and be left alone, that we can't act as a culture. It's as if we are all tangled and tied in a sack and the starting signal began a few centuries back. Buber once said that in Every You There Is A Glimpse Of The Eternal You. Wish "we" could.

May. 20 2011 06:11 PM

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