The DSK Files: Sorting Out the Evidence, Rumors, and Conspiracy Theories About Dominique Strauss-Kahn

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Ever since a fateful day in May when criminal charges of sexual assault were filed against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a French presidential hopeful, the hype surrounding the case has been immense. DSK, as he is known in France and now in New York, has been the subject of numerous rumors and conflicting reports, as tales of purported philandering and attempted assaults have flooded in. The case took a dramatic turn on July 1, when prosecutors announced they had uncovered serious credibility problems with their central witness, Nafissatou Diallo, a housekeeper at the Sofitel who claims that DSK had emerged naked from a bathroom in his $3,000-a-night suite and attacked her. The DA agreed to drop the charges and a judge has approved the decision, pending an appellate court's ruling whether a special prosecutor should be appointed. But a separate civil suit filed by Diallo still remains, along with questions of whether he will parachute back into French politics once he's home.

Here we've assembled all available evidence, along with the sometimes conflicting rumors, secrets, and trash talk, to help you make sense of the scandal that engulfed one of the most powerful men on the planet.


Did DSK and his wife frequent one of Paris's tonier wife-swapping clubs?

Frédéric Lefebvre, an adviser to French president Nicolas Sarkozy, claimed in 2007 to have seen photographic evidence of DSK leaving Les Chandelles, a garishly neon-lighted club at 1 Rue Therese and threatened to “circulate them if DSK were to run for president.

The Secrets of a Presidential Contender, a book published last year under a pseudonym, possibly by one of Strauss-Kahn’s former female aides, also mentions the existence of photographs showing DSK and his wife, American-born French TV personality Anne Sinclair, leaving the club several years ago.

The couple’s definition of marital fidelity is, shall we say, progressive. When asked if she was worried about her husband’s notorious womanizing by French news magazine L'Express in 2006, Sinclair answered: "No! I'm even proud of it. It's important to seduce, for a politician. As long as he is still attracted to me, and I to him, it is sufficient.

Bottom Line: While a bit of chic spouse swapping doesn’t seem out of character with what we know about the Strauss-Kahn-Sinclair marriage, the Les Chandelles evidence is scanty, anonymous, and too tinged with political/revenge motives to have much credence.

Did DSK have a well-justified reputation for being sexually aggressive?

Aurélie Filippetti, a member of the National Assembly and a Socialist Party member, told French newspaper Le Temps that in 2008 DSK made a “very heavy, very insistent” attempt to bed her. “I arranged to never find myself alone with him in a closed space,” she said.

The aforementioned Secrets of a Presidential Contender claims that DSK sexually assaulted a hotel housekeeper while on an official visit to Mexico that went unreported.

The New Yorker's Philip Gourevitch attended a dinner party with members of the "Parisian society that has produced [DSK]," many of whom knew DSK and his wife. He writes: "According to the stories, he grabbed women in elevators, he cornered them in gardens, and if they resisted he liked to pursue, with phone calls and text messages."

Italian adult movie actress Natasha Kiss alluded to Italian daily Corriere della Sera that she shared some intimate moments with DSK at a private Parisian club several years ago. “He was very sweet, well mannered and did not behave like a dog, as often happens,” she said. “On the contrary!”

A French actress wrote on her blog that DSK had invited her to a Paris flat and then acted like “a gorilla” or a “randy monkey” (depending on the translation), according to the Daily Mail.

Another French actress, Danièle Evenou, said on television, “Who hasn’t been cornered by Dominique Strauss-Kahn?”

An unnamed European journalist, going by Marina, told the Times of London that DSK tracked her down after a group interview and said, “If you go out with me, you can have your own interview.” When she refused, he backed off, but apparently last November he tried again saying that he’d grant her an interview, “but I had to go and spend the weekend with him in Paris or somewhere. He made it almost explicit that I had to sleep with him for the interview.”

After receiving complaints from flight staff about DSK's grabbiness, Air France decided in favor of male-only first class cabin crews for flights he was travelling on.

Michel Taubmann, a French journalist who was granted extensive interviews with DSK, his wife, and other close confidants for The True Story of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, cautions that many of the liaisons attributed to the former IMF managing director were “imaginary,” but adds:

When a woman attracted him, he did not send an emissary in the night, plastering themselves up against the walls of a hotel in order to relay a secret message. He tried to seduce her in full view of everyone, often just for sport and not always going through with the act. [...] Indisputably, DSK loves women. But women love him too.

(A witness to the latter: a female colleague from DSK's National Assembly days claimed he was more often on the receiving rather than the giving end of flirtations, describing a scene reminiscent of middle school, with women deputies writing him steamy love letters. “In reality, we could call it sexual harassment. But Dominique was the victim!”)

Bottom Line: He may not have behaved badly with every woman he was attracted to, but the preponderance of evidence paints a very ugly picture of DSK’s behavior.

Did DSK sexually assault 22-year-old journalist Tristane Banon?

In February 2007, Tristane Banon (now 32) went on the TV show 93, Faubourg Saint-Honoré (televised on the Paris Premiere channel) and spoke out publicly about a big-name politician who'd sexually assaulted her five years earlier in the process of an interview. (The name was bleeped out.) She detailed how the man had asked to meet her not at his home but at an apartment empty but for a bed and video equipment. The man then asked if the interview could be conducted while "holding hands," which soon turned into an all-out tussle, with Banon screaming "rape" to scare off her attacker. "It ended up violently," she said. "I kicked him several times, he unbuttoned my bra and tried to unzip my jeans." She further described the man as "like a chimpanzee in heat."

A year or so after Banon went on the air with her story, the website Agoravox.fr claimed she had been referring to DSK. Banon was interviewing him for a book about (irony of ironies) politicians' greatest mistakes. The Times obtained a copy of a deleted (at her publisher's behest after a DSK complaint) chapter from the 2003 book, Confessed Mistakes; of the DSK incident, she writes, " “The only thing I want is to leave. I end up doing that ... Thirty minutes later, I promise him in return that I’ll come back, which I never do,” and "He wants to go fast. The ogre, he wants to devour his prey.”

Shortly after news broke several months ago of DSK's arrest in New York over sexual-assault charges filed by a hotel housekeeper, Banon said that DSK was, in fact, her attacker. She is the goddaughter of his second wife, Brigitte Guillemette, and DSK’s daughter was one of her closest friends.

Banon’s mother, Anne Mansouret, a Socialist Party official — and the one who advised her not to press charges at the time — said: "To me, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is sick. This is not an insult to say that he has a real problem: an addiction to sex, much like others struggle with alcohol, drugs, or gambling. He is sick. As to the actions in question, I cannot comment on them as I was not there. But to me, it is very plausible that this woman [in New York] was sexually assaulted. Let me be clear, he certainly tried to [sexually] abuse Tristane."

Mansouret herself became part of this sordid tale after testifying to the special prosecutor charged with investigating Banon's claims that she had had a rather brusque sexual encounter with DSK just a few years before he allegedly attacked her daughter. (Just to make things more interesting, Mansouret was often mentioned as a close friend of Brigitte Guillemette's, DSK's wife at the time and Tristane's godmother.)

Guillemette later came out against Anne Mansouret, saying they had never been close — in fact, she says, she had only agreed to being Tristane's godmother because Mansouret had no other friends baptized in the church. She also raised some curious details about Banon's relationship with her daughter, Camille, who was first contacted by the young journalist after the date of the alleged attack, who said she'd gotten Camille's number from none other than DSK. At their first meeting she didn't even mention the sexual assault. Only at a second rendezvous in a Latin Quarter café did Tristane reveal to Camille her father's supposed aggression — that is, after she'd already consulted with her mother and a lawyer on what she should do.

In a newly-released version of The True Story of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, DSK’s official biographer Michel Taubmann includes material from an interview he conducted with the embattled politician on March 20 of this year. Responding to Banon's accusations for the first time, DSK said: "This is completely false! The scene she describes is imaginary. Can you see me, me, throwing a young woman to the ground and attacking her as she has described?"

Taubmann also spoke with Ramzi Khiroun, a close adviser to DSK and part of the politician's communications team, who remembered reaching out to Banon and her editor after DSK told him he'd “confessed [his political] errors” to the young journalist. “We worked very hard to forget the events where he had been accused of wrongdoing, notably the Mnef affair,” — referring to a public pension fund scandal over phony consultant fees; DSK's Mnef honorarium was ultimately deemed aboveboard, though it cost him his ministerial post — “yet here, all because he did a favor for the friend of his daughter, Dominique had revived all those stories!” Ultimately, Khiroun got the damning material stripped from the manuscript, resulting in an infuriated phone call from Banon, who he claims threatened, “I will get my revenge on Dominique Strauss-Kahn,” before hanging up.

One thing's for sure, Banon's accusations were not a well-kept secret. Recent revelations make clear that a number of journalists and senior Socialist Party officials, such as current presidential candidate François Hollande, were in the know. Socialist Party deputy Aurélie Filippetti (see above) even advised Mansouret at the time that her daughter should file a complaint.

On July 4, mere days after the American case against DSK began to crumble, Banon confirmed in a newspaper interview that she was filing sex charges against DSK. (The statue of limitations in rape cases in France is 10 years.) "Today, seeing Strauss-Kahn free, eating at a luxury restaurant with friends, it makes me sick," she said. Banon claims she and her lawyer — who, presciently, refused to share information with American prosecutors — had decided to press ahead with her case in mid-June, before the recent turnaround in DSK's fortunes.

Bottom Line: What took place between Banon and DSK is, as in many sexual-assault cases, only fully knowable to the two of them. (Though the French special prosecutor is doing his best to find out.) While her version of events seems internally consistent, Banon's interactions with Camille raise questions. As for why she went public only now, it seems a tad far-fetched that she's spent the past five years laying the groundwork for a false accusation.

Did DSK coerce a female staffer at the IMF into having an affair?

Barely a year into his tenure as the IMF’s new managing director, The Wall Street Journal revealed that DSK was the target of an internal investigation regarding an affair he was having with Piroska Nagy, a Hungarian-born economist at the financial institution.

DSK publicly admitted to the short-lived affair.

He was ultimately cleared by the IMF board of any wrongdoing, which nonetheless reprimanded him over the incident, saying that though he had not committed “harassment, favoritism, or any other abuse of authority," he had committed acts that were "regrettable and reflected a serious error of judgment."

DSK’s claim that the affair was consensual was thrown into question by a letter Nagy wrote to the IMF board. She wrote: “I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. [DSK is] a man with a problem that may make him ill-equipped to lead an institution where women work under his command.”

Someone close to Ms. Nagy at the time of the affair spoke to the New York Times, saying the economist had felt coerced into the relationship.

Agnes Poirer writing for the Guardian: "I guess the Hungarian economist felt ill-prepared because she probably never worked in France, or she would have recognised DSK as a typical French womaniser who wouldn't abide by strict American behaviour regulations in the workplace. Any woman who has worked in France knows his type by heart, and has suffered their endless soliciting."

Bottom Line: There’s no doubt that the affair happened. Nagy’s letter to the IMF board makes clear that she felt backed into a corner by DSK’s advances. Given the obvious imbalance in power, and absent any denial of coercion from DSK, her statement is pretty damning.

Was DSK the enigmatic "G" in Yasmina Reza's novel?

2007's Dawn Dusk or Night, which has the French title L’Aube le soir ou la Nuit, is based on her time following Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign. After the Times of London first floated the possibility that DSK, who goes by his middle name Gaston among his closer friends, is “G,” the theory caught on like wildfire.

“G” is described in the book as a Socialist Party politician (check) with ambitions on the presidency (double check).

As for whether “G” and Reza were romantically entangled, she did claim to be “close” to him, and the New York Times says “G” was “believed to be her lover at the time.” According to Le Point magazine, she was actually writing the book in order to better understand “G,” not Sarkozy.

Yasmina Reza has refused to comment on the identity of “G.”

Bottom Line: The only other big-time Socialist politician expected to run for president next year is François Hollande, better known, perhaps, as the husband former partner of failed 2008 Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal. But when Reza's book was published, Hollande was still playing the backseat to Royal. Which leaves DSK, who seems to fit the bill perfectly.

Was DSK a client of the Manhattan madam Kristin Davis's escort service?

On May 19, the London Times ran an interview with Davis, who is famous for running one of the prostitution rings used by former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. She said that DSK was introduced to her by Irma Nici, a Bosnian prostitute in Paris.

Davis claims the first time she provided DSK with a girl was in January of 2006, where for $2,500 cash he got an “all-American girl” for two hours. She also says the girl complained that DSK was too aggressive and refused to see him again.

Several months later, when DSK was in New York for a conference hosted by former president Bill Clinton, Davis says she sent him a Brazilian escort. “The girls said he was pushy, overly grabby and forceful. He did not rape anyone. However, at $1,000 or more an hour, we expected the clients to behave like gentlemen, not animals.”

The Telegraph and the Daily Mail followed suit with their own interviews with Kristin Davis talking about girls she’d provided for DSK.

Bottom Line: It all depends on whether you believe Kristin Davis. After serving four months on Rikers Island, she quixotically ran for governor (under the tutelage of longtime Spitzer enemy Roger Stone). She is intimately with the world of high-end prostitution; she is also an avid self-promoter with a taste for publicity. Is she credible? Maybe.

How many women did DSK make a pass at during that fateful weekend in May?

Between his arrival at the Sofitel on Friday and noon the next day, when he supposedly sexually assaulted the housekeeper in his $3,000-a-night suite, DSK made passes at two other Sofitel employees, according to the Post. He asked the VIP hostess who showed him to his room whether she would stay for a drink; early on Saturday, he made the same offer to one of the front desk receptionists, saying that he had a complimentary bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne waiting to be opened. Both declined; the receptionist said he was "borderline flirting" with her.

Not all clues hint at a sexually frustrated DSK the morning of Saturday, May 14, however. Around 1:30 a.m. that same day he was caught on the Sofitel's surveillance tapes taking a female companion up to his room, which the Post identified as his “secret girlfriend”.

A friend of DSK's wife Anne Sinclair had slightly different math to publicize, telling French magazine Le Point that DSK had actually had sex with three women that weekend. "It wasn't just one for the road before the presidential campaign. It was three."

Even after such a busy weekend, seems DSK just couldn't turn off that special radar of his. On his Air France flight back to Paris — right before Port Authority detectives detained him “ he remarked on one of the flight attendant's assets, barking, “What a nice ass!”

Bottom Line: Maybe this weekend in the city was meant as DSK's last big hurrah before buckling down for several months of shoe-leather campaigning in France. But that's still an awful lot of philandering in just a few days — which only proves that DSK's sexual energies were mid-recharge when Nafisattou Diallo walked into his hotel suite

Did DSK sexually assault a housekeeper at the West 44th Street Sofitel?

According to the police complaint, grand-jury indictment, and the hospital report, the housekeeper (Nafissatou Diallo) entered room 2806, a suite that cost $3,000 a night, believing it to be empty. DSK allegedly came out of the bathroom naked, locked the door to the suite, grabbed her, and pulled her into the bedroom and onto the bed, where he forced her into performing oral sex on him. He allegedly assaulted her again after dragging her toward the bathroom.

Fox News ran a transcript of the few words shared between DSK and his alleged victim, as remembered by her, during the sexual assault.

DSK: Don't you know who I am! Don't you know who I am? MAID: Please, please stop. No! My manager is in the hallway. Please stop. I need my job, I can't lose my job, don't do this. I will lose my job. Please, please stop! Please stop! DSK: No, baby. Don't worry, you're not going to lose your job. Don't you know who I am? Don't you know who I am?

In Newsweek's cover story a month ago, Diallo presented a slightly different exchange.

MAID: Hello? Housekeeping. [Sees DSK appear naked from bathroom.] Oh, my God. I'm so sorry. DSK: You don't have to be sorry. [DSK starts clutching at her breast] You're beautiful. MAID: Sir, stop this. I don't want to lose my job. DSK: You're not going to lose your job. [DSK continues sexual assault, at one point forcing her to perform oral sex on him.] Suck my—Diallo refuses to repeat the word.

According to police sources who spoke with the press, DSK had a gash on his back and blood was found on the bed sheet, in keeping with the maid's story that she only got away by slamming DSK into an armoire.

A semen sample collected off the housekeeper’s uniform and sent to French authorities by American investigators came back positive as DSK’s.

The hospital report, leaked to French magazine L'Express by Diallo's lawyer, mentions redness and bruising around her vagina, where she claims DSK grabbed her, and lists “rape” as the cause of injury. However, it has since come out that Diallo may have had sex the night before the alleged sexual assault, providing an alternative explanation for the redness.

The housekeeper claims that after pushing DSK off her, she fled into a side hallway right outside his suite, where a housekeeping supervisor later found her.

District attorneys later determined that contrary to her testimony before the grand jury, the housekeeper cleaned another room after the alleged attack, and then returned to clean DSK's room, before contacting a supervisor. The hospital report offers a third variation on the sequence of events, indicating that Diallo remained in the suite after the sexual encounter and watched DSK getting dressed.

Bottom Line: DSK’s legal strategy — which does not meaningfully dispute the events above, other than the housekeeper’s willingness to participate — means that the case rested largely on his credibility, and that of his accuser. The case began to fall apart after prosecutors cast serious doubt on Diallo, her story, and her truthfulness (see below).

Who is DSK's accuser?

The name of the woman, a Guinean immigrant, was not initially been disclosed in the United States, in line with journalistic standards about sexual assault cases, though websites in France released her name soon after the case came to light. In July, she went public with her story in the pages of Newsweek and disclosed her name: Nafissatou Diallo.

According to an extensive Times profile, she was born “in a mud hut in an isolated hamlet in Africa with no electricity or running water, a 10-minute hike to the nearest road. Unschooled, she was married off to a distant cousin as a teenager, had a daughter and was soon widowed.”

The Newsweek feature lends some more family detail: her father was an imam and ran a Quranic school out of the family's home in rural Guinea; and Diallo had given birth to a second daughter who died when only several months old — the inspiration for the imaginary second child on her tax return, perhaps?

She had legal status and working papers by the time she began her job as a housekeeper at the Sofitel in 2008, according to her lawyers. At some point prior she was granted asylum in the United States, though her lawyers have not revealed the basis of her asylum petition.

The Newsweek article described Diallo as “not glamorous. Her light-brown skin is pitted with what look like faint acne scars, and her dark hair is hennaed, straightened, and worn flat to the head, but she has a womanly, statuesque figure. When her face is in repose, there is an opaque melancholy to it."

Soon after his indictment, DSK's lawyers revealed they would be arguing that the sexual encounter was consensual and the Times reported that DSK "has hired private detectives as well as prominent defense lawyers who have said in court papers that they have 'substantial information' that could 'gravely undermine' her credibility."

In a bombshell announcement on July 1, prosecutors announced that their investigators uncovered serious issues with Diallo's credibility. Among the revelations, according to the Times:

According to officials, the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded. That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years.

Investigators also determined that Diallo was paying for five different cell phone accounts, claimed a fictitious second child on her tax return, received unreported income from a marketing firm, and lied to prosecutors about the sequence of events following the alleged sexual assault. The most damaging deception, according to prosecutors, was that she told a vivid and detailed story about having been raped in Guinea, only to later admit to investigators that she had fabricated the entire story.

As Times columnist Jim Dwyer explained: "Having been tricked by Ms. Diallo, none of the seasoned lawyers or investigators could ask a jury to convict Mr. Strauss-Kahn based on those very tools of dramatic persuasion. Her gang-rape performance, they wrote, was 'fatal.'"

Bottom Line: Her credibility issues, which would have provided ample opportunity for DSK's lawyers to establish reasonable doubt about her allegations, sank the criminal case. It now remains to be seen if the civil case can hold up.

Did DSK think the housekeeper at the Sofitel was actually a hooker he'd hired?

A novel theory that made the rounds at Reuters — according to blogger Felix Salmon — is that DSK had ordered a hooker and, upon emerging from the bathroom he mistook the hotel housekeeper for his paid companion. "It’s implausible, to be sure, but then again, so’s everything in this case," Salmon wrote. And Robert Kuttner questions DSK's general perceptiveness, based on his choice of McCormick’s and Schmicks for lunch: "A sophisticated diner confusing a chain restaurant with a decent New York eatery is almost capable of mistaking a housekeeper for a hooker. "

One of Business Insider’s French stringers says that some of his countrymen were considering this theory as a possibility.

Days after the prosecution aired serious concerns over their chief witness’ credibility, The Post reported on startling evidence uncovered by the defense's investigators that seemed to suggest DSK's accuser was, in fact, a hotel hooker, claiming she received “extraordinary tips“. Additionally, there were expensive hair, salon, and jewelry expenses paid for by men not related to her. The article even suggested that the woman’s union was, at the very least, aware of her moonlighting and had specifically assigned her to the Midtown hotel because she was seen as an “earner,“ according to the Post's source close to the defense team.

The following day, The Post ran another article, this time citing a prosecution source saying the Sofitel maid had continued working as a prostitute from the Brooklyn hotel where the DA was keeping her holed up. "There were multiple ’dates’ and encounters at the hotel on the DA’s dime" the source said.

The defense has since updated its "consensual sex" story and now claims that his accuser was aware who was in suite 2806 — a photograph identifying DSK as a VIP was reportedly hanging in the maid closet — and asked DSK for cash after performing oral sex on him. DSK was apparently "dismissive" of her repeated requests, at which point she became agitated and left the room. Particularly interesting is the possibility, as recounted to The Post, that after the sexual encounter the maid spent nine minutes with DSK while he was getting dressed, a version of events supported by the hospital report prepared just hours after the alleged attack.

On July 5, DSK’s accuser sued The Post and four of its reporters for libel in relation to the paper’s string of articles labeling her a prostitute, and slamming what was termed "an apparent desperate attempt to bolster its rapidly plunging sales." The suit did not specify the amount of damages being sought by the plaintiff.

Bottom Line: We initially thought to put this one in the “kooky conspiracy theories” bin, next to the revelation that DSK’s suite number at the Sofitel — 2806 — is the same as the day and month — June 28 (or 28/06 in European notation) — of the first Socialist Party presidential primaries. But as this already messy case of conflicting allegations has gotten exponentially messier, the lack of physical evidence makes it nearly impossible to discern the truth.

Did DSK, or people working in his interest, attempt to bribe the Guinean family of the Sofitel housekeeper?

On May 24, the Post reported that friends of DSK and his wife had contacted the housekeeper's family in the West African nation of Guinea, a former French colony.

A French businesswoman "with close ties to Strauss-Kahn and his family," according to the Post, said that "the woman will get a lot of money" and claimed that as much as seven figures were in play; the housekeeper's family, who she apparently has had very little contact with since moving to America, live in a poor area where average monthly income is just $45.

Agence France Presse sent a reporter to Tchiakoulle, the housekeeper’s hometown in Guinea, and found that her family had largely lost touch with her, only speaking with her once in ten years.

Bottom Line: While the return on investment might be attractive for DSK’s legal team or his network of cronies, it doesn’t sound like the family in Africa has much influence on the housekeeper, and the district attorney’s office has her in protective custody to prevent just this kind of skullduggery.

What happened when DSK took his daughter to lunch on the day of the alleged assault?

Prosecutors are homing in on security video from the lunch DSK had with his daughter, Camille, less than an hour after he allegedly sexually assaulted a housekeeper at his hotel.

DSK met Camille at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, which the Times somewhat bitchily described as "perhaps incongruous for a man renting a town house listed for $50,000 a month." They had fish and a bottle of white wine.

The Times: "It could bolster the defense case if they laugh or appear to share a leisurely meal; it could support the prosecution if it shows the 62-year-old white-haired Frenchman looking distracted or upset."

Bottom Line: That's a lot of pressure on security footage from a lunch. What if he had a skunky Malpeque? An undercooked tilapia? And DSK was at the lunch to meet his daughter's boyfriend. Isn't that reason enough for a dad to look "distracted or upset"?