Strauss-Kahn arrest: End of the French media taboo?

The arrest of French presidential favorite Dominque Strauss-Kahn on sex-crime charges is causing some French journalists to rethink the taboo on coverage of the private lives and loves of powerful figures. Private should not always be private.

By , \

  • close
    Dominique Strauss-Kahn attends a meeting in Autun, France, in 2006. Accusations that the powerful French politician who heads the International Monetary Fund sexually assaulted a Manhattan hotel maid unleashed a crisis in his homeland, where he had been considered a leading candidate for president, and added to the jitters of European economies in need of financial support.
    View Caption

Will sex-crime charges against a favorite for the French presidency undo a media taboo on the sexual escapades of the French elite?

Dalliances among the powerful are a nonstory in France. For one thing, strict libel and privacy laws discourage such media coverage. For another, infidelity is believed to be so common as to be a waste of reporter shoe leather. Perhaps more important, though, is the French attitude that affairs of the heart (or otherwise) are unrelated to affairs of state. They are private matters of no public consequence, and should be of no interest to the media.

Then along comes the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He was expected to soon announce his candidacy for the French presidency, and to win. But he was charged on Monday with attempted rape and other crimes related to a maid who came to clean his suite at the Sofitel Hotel in New York on May 7. (For the Monitor's editorial on Mr. Strauss-Kahn, click here.)

Recommended: France presidential elections: the candidates challenging Sarkozy

The French media have long known of Strauss-Kahn's penchant for women. But they paid little heed until an investigation in 2008 of his affair with an IMF subordinate, a Hungarian economist named Piroska Nagy. The affair was found to be consensual, but to have shown poor judgment. The admired leader of the IMF apologized. End of story.

But should it have been? Some French journalists wonder, given the criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn that now endanger his presidential bid and his successful leadership of the IMF in a time of stressed global finances.

A leading French political commentator told The New York Times that journalists haven't done their job properly. For instance, he now regrets saying nothing about a former French foreign minister who was involved with the daughter of Syria's defense minister. "I was wrong. It had an impact on France's foreign policy," said Pierre Haski.

Former French President Francois Mitterand once answered "yes, it's true, and so what?" to a journalist's question about whether he had an out-of-wedlock daughter. Only after his death did it come out that the French government had financially supported his mistress and daughter.

The separation of the private-and-work spheres is not as tidy as the French may imagine. A boss who exercises power over employees to win sexual favors can poison an office. In a letter to IMF investigators, Ms. Nagy wrote that she was "damned if I did and damned if I didn't" agree to the affair, which was brief. She also noted that Strauss-Kahn has "a problem that may make him ill-equipped to lead an institution where women work under his command."

One can hardly endorse TMZ-style journalism in the United States. But the French taboo is another extreme that keeps the public in the dark about important aspects of a public figure's character and its consequences.

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

eZ debug

Clear cache:

Quick settings:

Timing: Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Script start
Timing: Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Module start 'content'
Warning: eZDebug::accumulatorStop Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Accumulator 'Search' does not exist, run eZDebug::accumulatorStart first
Warning: eZDebug::accumulatorStop Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Accumulator 'Search' does not exist, run eZDebug::accumulatorStart first
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 158
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 175
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 158
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 175
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_remote_id_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/csm_base/classes/CSMFunctionCollection.php on line 1028
Warning: eZTemplate:def @ extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/content/datatype/view/ezbyline.tpl:10[1] Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Variable 'story_source' is already defined.
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_remote_id_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/csm_base/classes/CSMFunctionCollection.php on line 1028
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_remote_id_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/csm_base/classes/CSMFunctionCollection.php on line 1028
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Undefined index: meta_remote_id_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/csm_base/classes/CSMFunctionCollection.php on line 1028
Timing: Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Module end 'content'
Timing: Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Before parse_includes
Strict: PHP: E_STRICT Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Non-static method MugoViewExtras::get_view_extras() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/mugo_view_extras/autoloads/template_operators.php on line 37
Warning: eZTemplate:def @ extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/extra/archive.tpl:21[1] Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
Variable 'view_extra_node' is already defined.
Timing: Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
After parse_includes
Timing: Jul 09 2014 08:46:12
End

Timing points:

CheckpointElapsedRel. ElapsedMemoryRel. Memory
Script start 0.0000 sec0.0225 sec 1,286.1563 KB1,162.2734 KB
Module start 'content' 0.0225 sec0.8186 sec 2,448.4297 KB10,975.2578 KB
Module end 'content' 0.8411 sec0.0175 sec 13,423.6875 KB391.8750 KB
Before parse_includes 0.8586 sec0.0499 sec 13,815.5625 KB280.6563 KB
After parse_includes 0.9085 sec0.0007 sec 14,096.2188 KB-182.4531 KB
End 0.9093 sec  13,913.7656 KB 
Total runtime:0.9152 sec
Peak memory usage:16,390.5781 KB

Time accumulators:

 Accumulator Elapsed Percent Count Average
ini_load
Load cache0.0070 sec0.7596%360.0002 sec
Mysql Total
Mysqli_queries0.1236 sec13.4592%1530.0008 sec
Looping result0.0076 sec0.8260%1440.0001 sec
Template Total0.8482 sec 92.4% 7 0.1212 sec
Template load0.0056 sec0.6146%70.0008 sec
Template processing0.8424 sec91.7166%70.1203 sec
Template load and register function0.0002 sec0.0241%40.0001 sec
states
state_id_array0.0041 sec0.4495%80.0005 sec
state_identifier_array0.0071 sec0.7677%110.0006 sec
override
Cache load0.0056 sec0.6083%660.0001 sec
eZ Find
MoreLikeThis0.0000 sec0.0000%00.0000 sec
Query build0.0071 sec0.7725%10.0071 sec
Engine time0.0176 sec1.9137%10.0176 sec
Search0.2733 sec29.7580%20.1367 sec
Class attribute list0.0835 sec9.0893%10.0835 sec
Sytem overhead
Fetch class attribute can translate value0.0012 sec0.1303%20.0006 sec
Fetch class attribute name0.0002 sec0.0266%100.0000 sec
XML
Image XML parsing0.0049 sec0.5327%20.0024 sec
class_abstraction
Instantiating content class attribute0.0001 sec0.0108%100.0000 sec
General
String conversion0.0000 sec0.0027%30.0000 sec
dbfile0.0014 sec0.1481%470.0000 sec
View Extra building0.0136 sec1.4787%40.0034 sec
Total script time:0.9184 sec

CSS/JS files loaded with "ezjscPacker" during request:

CacheTypePacklevelSourceFiles
01a980f93dc967c6e39d52a11ae2108b_1404899611_all.cssCSS3extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/normalize.css
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/html5b.css
design/standard/stylesheets/debug.css
extension/ezwt/design/standard/stylesheets/websitetoolbar.css
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/jquery-ui-1.10.3.custom.min.css
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/desktop.css
ede0a88fd146f1a095d27fb22227d0e5_1398846822.jsJS2extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/modernizr.js
extension/csm_base/design/standard/javascript/jquery-1.10.2.min.js
1650da1ba852ac5f9af81af07e8fa105_1404899611.jsJS2extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery-ui-1.10.4.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/json2.js
extension/csm_base/design/standard/javascript/jquery.cookie.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery.mobile.custom.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.arthole.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.sticky.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.csmstory.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.right_column.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.csmstory_editorspickdialog.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.sailthru_signup.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.jcarousel.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.history.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.mainNav.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.gallery.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.staffdialog.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jQuery.rollChildren.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/pubService_extended.js
extension/csm_base/design/standard/javascript/csm/csmNew.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery.quiz.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery.spectrumQuiz.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/global.js

Templates used to render the page:

UsageRequested templateTemplateTemplate loadedEditOverride
1node/view/full.tplfull/article.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/full/article.tplEdit templateOverride template
16content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/paragraph.tpl<No override>extension/ezwebin/design/ezwebin/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/paragraph.tplEdit templateOverride template
2content/datatype/view/ezimage.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/content/datatype/view/ezimage.tplEdit templateOverride template
12content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/link.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/link.tplEdit templateOverride template
2content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/strong.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/strong.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezstring.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezstring.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezxmltext.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltext.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezbyline.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/content/datatype/view/ezbyline.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezobjectrelationlist.tplcontent/datatype/view/story_images.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/story_images.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/eztext.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/eztext.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezstring.tplcontent/datatype/view/image_credit.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/image_credit.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezxmltext.tplcontent/datatype/view/story_info_box.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/story_info_box.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezmatrix.tplcontent/datatype/view/ezmatrix_article_related_external_links.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/ezmatrix_article_related_external_links.tplEdit templateOverride template
1pagelayout.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/pagelayout.tplEdit templateOverride template
1modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tpl<No override>extension/mugo_view_extras/design/standard/templates/modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tplEdit templateOverride template
1setup/debug_toolbar.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/setup/debug_toolbar.tplEdit templateOverride template
 Number of times templates used: 44
 Number of unique templates used: 16
 Time used to render template usage: 0.0004 secs