16 May 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: ‘lapin chaud’, but this is different

The IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been charged with attemped rape. A French journalist tells Channel 4 News womanising politicians are nothing new in France – but rape is completely different.

Attempted rape charges for Dominique Strauss-Kahn are 'completely shocking' in France (Getty)

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been charged with the attempted rape of a hotel maid in New York.

He denies the allegations, and will appear in court on Monday.

The arrest of the respected 62-year old, who steered the IMF though the credit crunch, has caused shockwaves around the world – and none more so than in his native France, where he was tipped as a presidential candidate in next year’s election.

Journalist Thomais Papaioannou, who works for I-Tele in France, told Channel 4 News that people were stunned by the accusations.

“It is a shock to French people, to everybody,” she said.

All our presidents were womanisers…but it is another thing to say attempted rape. Journalist Thomais Papaioannou

“A lot of people are also saying the same thing around me – in France, we don’t even show the handcuffs, but in the United States they show the man on TV. If you are accused of something in Europe, in France, you are not shown on TV, it is more discreet.

“Some say it is a shame for the French people, particularly because this man was sent to serve in an international organisation. Even if it is a trap, he is in it, and it is a shame – especially as he is a presidential candidate.”

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, charged with attempted rape (Reuters)


She said opinion was split over whether he had been trapped into it or not.

“It’s bizarre – this guy, he has so much money, so much power, why would he suddenly chase a hotel maid? Others think it is a plot to destroy him,” Ms Papaioannou said.

However she said that Mr Strauss-Kahn’s weakness for women was well-known in France.

“Everybody knows, everybody, particularly in Paris, has a story about Strauss-Kahn flirting, texting. He is the great seducer, the ‘lapin chaud’ – literally hot rabbit in English but it’s an expression which means when he sees a woman he likes to chase her.”

But she said that the allegations of rape made this a completely different, and considerably more serious, issue.

“All our presidents, except Charles de Gaulle, were womanisers. They have lots of wives, they like women. We accept our politicians have private lives, rich private lives – but it is another thing to say attempted rape.

“Here in France that is a very different matter. There is no glamour, and it’s very clear to everybody, we are very shocked.”

She said his political career could be finished in France.

“It’s so sudden, so grotesque, so big. But his career, it’s hard to tell – he is 62, so it will take a few years to get out of this, that means the presidential campaign is over. For the next one, he will be quite old. So unless there is a miracle – right now his career is clinically dead.”