Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn: 'What happens in a [hotel] room is a private thing'
Strauss-Kahn speaks to CNN's Richard Quest in first English-language interview since leaving IMF
The economist says he's helping underdeveloped countries
Editor’s Note: Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn spoke exclusively to CNN’s Richard Quest, whom you can follow on Twitter. Watch “Quest Means Business,” Monday-Friday 10 p.m. ET.
Despite his brushes with the law involving allegations of sexual assault and prostitution, Dominique Strauss-Kahn insisted in a CNN interview that he doesn’t “have any kind of problem with women.”
The former head of the International Monetary Fund, once considered a likely candidate for the French presidency, talked to CNN’s Richard Quest in his first English-language interview since resigning in 2011 after being charged with sexually assaulting a New York City maid.
All sexual assault charges against Strauss-Kahn related to the maid were dismissed at the request of the prosecutor.
Quest asked what Strauss-Kahn thought about some who perceive the economist as viewing women as “sexual objects.”
“No, I don’t actually,” Strauss-Kahn replied. “I don’t think so. I don’t think I have any kind of problem with women. I have a problem with understanding what is expected from politicians of highest level. It’s different from what [a] Mr. and Miss in the street [can do].”
Quest asked the economist straight out: “What were you thinking that day in New York?”
“Firstly, I don’t remember it exactly,” he replied.
He went on to say, “I wasn’t thinking anything. It happened, something happened, which is a private thing and I still say what happens in a room is a private thing unless the prosecutors find something to tell you that you are going to be charged for something and they have proof of that…”
The maid, Nafissatou Diallo, told police that she was cleaning when Strauss-Kahn emerged nude from a room in his luxury suite at the Sofitel hotel. She claimed that he tried to force himself on her, dragged her into the bathroom and tried to pull off her underwear.
On May 14, 2011, the economist, once widely predicted to become France’s Socialist presidential candidate, was escorted off an Air France flight headed to Paris and taken to a Manhattan police station for questioning about the alleged sexual assault.
Strauss-Kahn was charged with attempted rape and imprisonment of the hotel employee, denied bail and transferred to New York’s Rikers Island jail.
Within days, he resigned his $500,000 job and was indicted on seven counts – two counts of a criminal sexual act; two counts of sexual abuse and once count each of attempted rape, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching.
After satisfying a $1 million bail and $5 million bond, Strauss-Kahn got home confinement and had to surrender his travel documents.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
By the end of the summer, prosecutors had disclosed that the maid admitting lying about certain details, the maid had filed a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn and all charges against the ex-IMF head had been dismissed. Strauss-Kahn, often referred to as DSK, left the United States for France.
More than a year later, in December 2012, Strauss-Kahn reached a settlement with the maid, the terms of which were not released.
Quest asked Strauss-Kahn why he settled with the maid.
He explained that he felt he would have to pay more money in legal fees fighting it.
He opted to “pay and go on with my life,” he said.
But there have been numerous allegations against Strauss-Kahn. While the case involving the maid was playing out, French journalist Tristane Banon filed a complaint against Strauss-Kahn alleging attempted rape. Strauss-Kahn filed a counterclaim against Banon for “false declarations.”
And the following year, in February 2012, French police questioned Strauss-Kahn about an alleged prostitution ring possibly operated out of luxury hotels. In May 2012, a French investigation into Strauss-Kahn’s alleged involvement in a prostitution ring widened, and authorities said police would open a preliminary inquiry into acts that allegedly took place in Washington in December 2010, which they believed could constitute gang rape.
But in October, a French prosecutor dropped the investigation connecting Strauss-Kahn to the alleged Washington incident. The testimony on which the investigation was based was withdrawn and the woman declined to press charges.
Strauss-Kahn also told Quest that he felt he was treated poorly by police in New York.
“I think it’s a terrible thing, frankly,” he said. “The problem is, it’s a moment where in all European, American society you’re supposed to be innocent, you’re supposed to be innocent until you’re convicted.”
Strauss-Kahn’s arraignment was televised and clips played on U.S. and international networks. “Perp walks,” in which defendants – accompanied by police – walk in front of photographers handcuffed, are standard fare in America.
Underscoring the cultural differences between France and the United States, many French recoiled from images of Strauss-Kahn being paraded before the news media in handcuffs and in court – photographs that would be prohibited under French law to protect the presumption of innocence.
So, after all that, would Strauss-Kahn still consider running for the presidency of France? No, he answered. He said that sometimes he gives advice – and sometimes he does so for free – to underdeveloped countries.
Strauss-Kahn said he thinks France’s current president, Francois Hollande, is “doing his best.”
He spoke at length about the European economic situation. He criticized leaders for not dealing with a downturn when it first developed.
“What the Europeans tried to do was to buy time, for political reasons, not to admit the losses so they were unable,” he said. “Still now they are unable to have a plan for the future. They just try to buy another six months and another six months and that’s a catastrophe because the cost today is much higher than the cost – what would have been the cost two or three years ago.”
Quest asked Strauss-Kahn whether he’s frustrated that he’s not part of the discussion to find a solution to the problem.
“No, it’s my fault,” he replied.
The economist reflected on work he says he’s done internationally, including some work he says he’s recently done in South Sudan.
“I spent all my life trying to help my people in France to have a better life,” he said. “It appears to me while I was working that I could do this at the global level. Again, I must be humble.”
He said of his work in South Sudan: “I’m doing it totally for free because I want to help them. I’m happy to see the government of South Sudan tell me, ‘Come to us and help us, We need you.’”
“That’s much more rewarding than any kind of election in any country. People looking at you and say[ing] ‘We need you.’”