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The Womanizer’s Wife

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Nafissatou Diallo telling her story to Tina Brown of Newsweek/The Daily Beast on July 21.  

That night, Sinclair stayed up until dawn, according to Rambert and Revel, calling everyone she knew who was connected in New York. Her close friend Maurice Lévy, the CEO of Publicis, the world’s third-largest ad agency, began calling top U.S. lawyers for Strauss-Kahn’s representation. A publicist from Euro RSCG came over to the house, advising Sinclair to pack her bags before French reporters began to descend on the street below her penthouse; by 2 a.m., she’d left for Fryd­man’s home. There she learned that Strauss-Kahn was most likely going to end up in jail; then she “howled in pain, a long moan, like a stunned animal,” according to the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur. Her ex-husband, the journalist, called at 5 a.m., after hearing about the arrest during preparations for his morning radio show. A friend answered and said Sinclair couldn’t even form words at this point.

According to Rambert and Revel, the American lawyers, William Taylor, from D.C., and Ben Brafman, the media-savvy New York son of Holocaust survivors, called her shortly afterward with news: Her husband was going to be charged with the attempted rape of a poor chambermaid who only wanted to clean the rich man’s toilet and was instead defiled by his untrammeled lust, her stockings torn off as she tried to escape before succumbing to his power in an act of forced oral sex. He had left the hotel quickly, toothpaste smeared across his lips, hightailing it across town for lunch with his daughter, a political-science grad student at Columbia, and then to JFK, where he lumbered into the business-class ­cabin of an Air France flight. There, he may have also complimented a stewardess’s bottom—“Quel beau cul!”—a remark preserved for posterity in the Post under the headline booty gaul. The bail for Strauss-Kahn was set at $6 million, which was not a problem for Sinclair, who wired the $1 million in cash required to the courthouse. And the lawyers had another request: She should make a statement of support for Strauss-Kahn, so that the world would know exactly where she stood. Sinclair thought about the composition for a while, then sat down to write. “I don’t believe for a single second the accusations of sexual assault by my husband,” she wrote. “I am certain his innocence will be proven.”

In an ordinary marriage, one of the dramas in this situation would certainly have been: Is it true? And if so, should she leave him? But this was framed as a political crisis. The war room, rather than the bedroom, may be the most important place in the Strauss-Kahn household. From the beginning, the story of what really happened in room 2806 has been a media battle, and Sinclair and Strauss-Kahn are among the suavest players of that sport in the world. They remained silent as initial reports, almost certainly leaked by the prosecuting attorneys, came out about the victim: She was a widow, a single mother, a devout Muslim and daughter of an imam, an illiterate victim of genital mutilation who’d grown up in a mud hut—she might even wear a head scarf! Soon, Strauss-Kahn was led up to the guillotine during his court appearances; hundreds of maids from measly countries around the world, their ill-fitting dark dresses cinched with frilly white belts, gathered to raise fists and chant: “Shame on you! Shame on you!” New Yorkers agreed that they had never seen a more guilty man than the “Horny Toad,” the “IMF Pig.” In fact, as the tabloids had it, he was on a “sex binge” in the city that weekend, during which he hit on a VIP hostess and Sofitel receptionist (he offered to share a complimentary bottle of Dom Pérignon with them in his suite, a $3,000 room that was nonetheless reportedly discounted to $525 that night because he is a very important man) and was even caught on videotape entering the hotel the night before the alleged attack with a blonde banker with whom he supposedly has a standing fuck-buddy relationship.

A great tabloid story could have ended there. But there was more, much more, to come. The investigators for Strauss-Kahn turned up all sorts of information on the maid, and she didn’t impress the D.A.’s office either, which was starting to wonder if they had been seduced by the opportunity to heroically demonstrate that a chambermaid had the same rights as one of the most powerful men on Earth. As it turned out, the victim’s boyfriend was in jail in Arizona after bartering Chinese counterfeit clothing for 400 pounds of marijuana. Over $100,000 had been run through her bank accounts, potentially as a way to launder money. She had declared another child as a dependent to lower her taxes and lied about her salary to keep her subsidized housing in the Bronx. And, most notably, her asylum application to the U.S. included the story of a gang rape that she now admitted was a fabrication. She may not be a prostitute—when the New York Post reported that, her lawyers hit back with a libel suit—but she seemed to be a bit more familiar with cons than the usual immigrant doing what one had to do to make ends meet in America. “No one in the D.A.’s office gives a shit about her lying on government forms,” says a source close to the situation. “What they care about is that after the Strauss-Kahn incident, she sat and told government investigators, with tears, shaking, and conviction, a detailed account of her gang-rape in Guinea. Then she said it never happened. She was an incredibly convincing liar.”


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