Did Dominique Strauss-Kahn Try To Rape Tristane Banon?
Seven ways to check his story and hers against the evidence.
Out of the frying pan, into the sautee pan.
While the New York sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn unravels, another case against him has surfaced in France. Tristane Banon, a friend of Strauss-Kahn's daughter and a goddaughter of his second wife, is filing a complaint against him for attempted rape.
Strauss-Kahn wants the collapse of the New York case to discredit Banon. In a statement from his lawyers, he "notes that this complaint comes quite conveniently right at the moment when there is no longer the slightest doubt about the false nature of the accusations against him in the United States."
But that isn't true. The falsity of the accusations in New York remains in doubt. And Banon's case is a separate question. The New York accuser has failed tests of corroboration. Banon is entitled to the same tests, with the possibility of a different result. Can her allegations be confirmed? Let's investigate them.
Banon says that in February 2003, when she was 23, she interviewed Strauss-Kahn for a book. Afterward, he phoned her and asked her to meet him at a Paris address for a follow-up interview. The address turned out to be an apartment. There, he touched her and became increasingly physical. She resisted. On a TV show four years ago, she said, according to a Telegraph translation, that the encounter "ended very, very violently because I told him clearly. ... We didn't merely slap each other. … I gave kicks, and he undid my bra, he tried to undo my jeans." Agence France Presse translates her account differently: "I told him clearly 'No, No!'—and we finished up fighting on the floor. There wasn't just a couple of blows. I kicked him, and he tried to unclip my bra, to open my jeans." In an interview just published in L'Express, Banon describes
his fingers in my mouth, his hands in my pants. … [He] grabbed my hand and arm, I asked him to let me go. … He pulled me toward him, we came down and we fought on the ground for several minutes. ... He was violent. When I realized he really wanted to rape me, I started to give him a kick with my boots, I was terrified and I told him: "You're not going to rape me?" And then I managed to free myself, I ran downstairs …
Banon says she tried to stop Strauss-Kahn by reminding him that she was close to his daughter's age. She says he replied: "What does Camille have to do with it?"
In his authorized biography, published four months ago, Strauss-Kahn says of Banon's allegations, "The scene she describes is imaginary. Do you see me throwing a woman on the floor and being violent, as she claims?" He says Banon "contacted me through my daughter Camille … The interview took place normally, and at its end, I had a phone call to Michel Field to grant him an interview in his turn."
It sounds as though Strauss-Kahn is describing the initial interview and denying that he phoned Banon for a follow-up session at the apartment. Such a denial would make it easier to check his account and hers against external records. Here are a few of them:
1. The apartment. Banon says it was located "between Montparnasse and the National Assembly, in a street near the Boulevard des Invalides, and he told me it was the apartment of a friend." She says it "was almost empty, white, exposed beams, a coffee machine, a round table … an empty library, and, basically, a room with a bed." If Strauss-Kahn denies that they were together in such an apartment, it should be possible to find out whether it existed, and, if so, whether one of his friends owned it. If it did exist, Banon's description can be checked for accuracy. If she's accurate, Strauss-Kahn would need to explain how she knows what it looked like inside. Alternatively, if he admits to meeting her there, other French journalists can be quizzed to find out whether he invited them to the same place, or whether he reserved it for pretty young women.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of Dominique Strauss-Kahn by Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images.