When Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York May 14 for an alleged sexual assault on a hotel maid, political commentators wondered why the frontrunner to be the next president of France would risk it all.
But the mother of a woman who says Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2002 says she thinks that because of his compulsions the disgraced former head of the International Monetary Fund never really wanted to be president in the first place.
"To be the President of France is almost like being a religious figure -- you have to have permanent self control," said Anne Mansouret, a Socialist official in the Normandy region of France who has worked alongside Strauss-Kahn for decades. "He loved luxury, food, wine and women. He does not like constraints. He did not want to be President."
"He could never be rigid," added Mansouret. "He can't control anything -- whether it's food, alcohol, etc. He is not made to be constantly restraining himself."
Mansouret, a Socialist Party official in Normandy, is also the mother of writer Tristane Banon, now 31. Banon, the goddaughter of Strauss-Kahn's second wife, Brigitte Guillemette, claimed on a nationally televised French television show that Strauss-Kahn tried to sexually assault her in 2002. At the time of the alleged attack, Banon was 22 and conducting interviews for her first book, which was about the biggest mistakes in the lives of political figures.
Banon recounted the alleged incident on an episode of the French television show "93, Faubourg Saint-Honoré," that aired on the French cable TV channel Paris Première in February 2007. She named her alleged attacker as Strauss-Kahn but his name was bleeped out of the broadcast.
Banon alleged that Strauss-Kahn scheduled a meeting with her at an unfamiliar address, and when she arrived ready to conduct an interview she found an apartment empty except for a bed, a video camera and Strauss-Kahn. According to Banon, Strauss-Kahn made advances on her and would not take no for an answer, even when she cried rape. She says she wound up in a physical struggle with him on the floor. "It ended up violent… I kicked him several times, he unbuttoned my bra … and tried to unzip my jeans," Banon said on the show.
Before Strauss-Kahn was arrested for the alleged assault on a West African maid at Manhattan's Sofitel hotel on May 14, he had been a frontrunner for the Socialist Party's nomination in next year's French presidential elections and was leading current President Nicolas Sarkozy in opinion polls. Strauss-Kahn had long been famous in France as a compulsive womanizer – the thrice-married 62-year-old is nicknamed "The Hot Rabbit" -- but was not widely believed to be prone to sexual violence.
When news broke of Strauss-Kahn's arrest in New York, however, Banon's story and the Paris Première television clip from 2007 enjoyed renewed attention.
Mansouret told French reporters May 16 that the alleged 2002 incident between Strauss-Kahn and her daughter had been traumatizing for Banon. She said that at the time she had counseled her daughter against pressing charges because she was concerned about the possible repercussions for Strauss-Kahn's family, and worried that her daughter, who was just beginning her career, would be defined by the story.
Mansouret said her daughter has isolated herself with her attorneys and that she believes they are preparing the young woman's testimony in the event of any civil or criminal case.
She told ABC News that her daughter's lawyers have asked her to keep quiet about the alleged incident so that none of her comments can be used in any fashion to contradict Banon's version of events.
"All I can say is I picked my daughter up [after the interview with Strauss-Kahn], and she was in a certain state," she said. "She will have her story according to how she saw it."
Banon's attorney, David Koubbi, has reportedly said he will not make a criminal complaint against Strauss-Kahn while the American prosecution is going on because the two cases should be kept separate. He said he did not rule out making a complaint after that, according to the Associated Press. A 10-year statute of limitations, however, means that the criminal complaint must be made by next year.
He said Banon "can't live in her home anymore because her residence is constantly surrounded by journalists and paparazzi. She can't answer her mobile phone anymore. Her voice mail is full. People she hasn't seen for eight years are trying to get in touch with her because getting an interview with her is priceless."
"Here's how she feels: She became the heart of a story without having any say in the matter."
On May 18, Strauss-Kahn resigned as managing director of the I.M.F., saying "I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me."
His lawyers maintain that the encounter he had with the Sofitel maid was consensual.
Mansouret, commenting on Strauss-Kahn's reputation as a womanizer, said that he was "capricious" but probably not a "sick man."
"He was not crazy. He has a very strong libido," said Mansouret. "I don't think he was sick, but I'm not a doctor so am not qualified to say."
Mansouret also said Strauss-Kahn was one of the most brilliant minds of the political Left in his country. "He has everything: imagination, brilliance, an ability to teach."
"He has a beautiful intelligence," said Mansouret. "But intelligence is not everything."