In the aftermath of the arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges in New York, an older accusation of sexual assault against Strauss-Kahn has resurfaced in France. Strauss-Kahn’s French accuser is Tristane Banon, a 31-year-old writer who claims to have been assaulted by Strauss-Kahn in an empty apartment in Paris in 2002. According to Banon, she met Strauss-Kahn in the apartment in order to interview him for her first book. Ironically, the subject of the book, which appeared one year later, was the admitted “biggest mistakes” committed by public figures.
In February 2007, Banon gave an account of the incident on the French television talk show 93, Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Describing Strauss-Kahn as a “chimp in heat,” she explained that he refused to answer her questions unless she held his hand. “From the hand, it went to the arm and from the arm a little further,” Banon continued. On Banon’s account, the two ended up fighting on the floor. “I kicked him,” Banon explained. “He undid my bra. He tried to take off my jeans.” Banon said that after leaving the apartment she immediately received a text message from Strauss-Kahn asking, “So, do I scare you?”
The Banon interview can be viewed here. Another clip of it on YouTube has been removed due to a copyright complaint. Strauss-Kahn’s name was beeped out by the producers of 93, Faubourg Saint-Honoré when the episode of the show aired in 2007. But both Banon herself and her mother, Anne Mansouret, have since affirmed that the perpetrator of the described assault was none other than Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Mansouret is a local elected official. Like Strauss-Kahn, she is a member of the Socialist Party. In an interview with the French news channel i-Télé on Sunday, she said that when she first saw Banon after the 2002 appointment with Strauss-Kahn, the zipper of her daughter’s jeans was torn and the heel of one of her shoes was missing.
In a series of interviews with French media, Mansouret has explained that she dissuaded Banon from bringing charges against Strauss-Kahn at the time of the incident. Mansouret has cited fears regarding both personal and professional repercussions for her daughter. Banon has personal ties to the Strauss-Kahn family. She is the goddaughter of Strauss-Kahn’s second wife and close friends with his daughter Camille from the same marriage.
More ominously, in remarks attributed to her by Olivier Bailly in an October 2008 article on the French website Agoravox, Banon herself alludes to fears concerning possible acts of physical intimidation by Strauss-Kahn or a member of his entourage.
In the 2007 episode of 93, Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Banon said that before dropping the idea of bringing charges, she visited a well-known lawyer who had “a stack this high” of documents relating to Strauss-Kahn. In a similar vein, an October 2008 article in the French magazine Le Point asserts that Strauss-Kahn had “nearly” been charged with sexual harassment on several occasions. “His escapades are legendary,” author Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette writes, “but — as French tradition demands — there has been almost no mention of them in the press.”
Banon’s mother, Anne Mansouret, recently announced that she would be a candidate in the upcoming Socialist presidential primary. The relatively little known Mansouret has said that she does not in fact aspire to be president, but wants rather to use the occasion to raise issues that she believes the Socialist Party should be examining. Although he had not yet officially announced his candidacy, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was widely regarded as the leading contender for the Socialist nomination prior to his arrest.
On Monday, Tristane Banon’s lawyer, David Koubbi, announced that his client was again considering bringing charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the alleged 2002 assault.