Dominique Strauss-Kahn Tried to Rape Me, Says French Journalist

Tristane Banon claims IMF head attacked her in 2002.

ByAnna Schecter
May 16, 2011, 3:00 PM

May 16, 2011 — -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is currently being held in a New York City jail on sexual assault charges, allegedly attempted a similar assault on a 22-year-old French journalist in 2002.

The head of the International Monetary Fund was hauled off an Air France flight just before it departed New York Saturday night and charged with the attempted rape of a maid at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan. On Monday a New York City judge denied him bail after prosecutors argued they were investigating reports that Strauss Kahn had "engaged in similar conduct at least once before.

French journalist Tristane Banon has accused Strauss-Kahn, a prominent French politician who was considered a potential candidate for president in next spring's elections, of attempting to assault her when she interviewed him nearly 10 years ago.

Banon recounted her harrowing experience with Strauss-Kahn as part of a French television show "93, Faubourg Saint-Honoré," that aired on the French cable TV channel Paris Première in February 2007.

"It ended up violent… I kicked him several times, he unbuttoned my bra … and tried to unzip my jeans," Banon said on the show.

Banon recounted the story of the 2002 alleged attack while filmed sitting at a dinner table with guests, each one telling of his or her bad experience with a politician. Strauss-Kahn's name is covered up by a beep on the show, but Banon has subsequently confirmed she was talking about Strauss-Kahn.

At the time of the alleged attack, Banon, then only 22, had arranged to meet with Strauss-Kahn to interview him for her first book "Admitted Mistakes," in which she queried politicians about the greatest error of their careers.

Banon said in the clip that Strauss-Kahn told her to meet him at an address that turned out to be an apartment that was empty except for a bed and a video camera. Banon said she was "surprised" when told to meet him there since she knew where he lived and worked.

Once inside, Banon said, Strauss-Kahn insisted that she conduct the interview "holding his hand."

Banon said that the hand-holding turned into sexual advances and that Strauss-Kahn became violent. They fought on the floor of the apartment. "When we were fighting, I used the word 'rape' to scare him," said Banon, which she said did not stop Strauss-Kahn. Ultimately, she fought him off and left.

Banon claimed that after the alleged assault, Strauss-Kahn continued to send her text messages asking her if she was "scared." On the show, Banon also said, "No young girl wants to work for him anymore at the National Assembly."

She also said she told her story to a well-known lawyer who she said had a huge file on Strauss-Kahn.

Banon's Mother Urged Her Not to Press Charges

Banon's mother, Anne Mansouret, a Socialist Party official, said in recent interviews that the event was extremely traumatizing for her daughter.

"She fell into a depression [following the attack]," Mansouret told France's Channel 3 News Monday. Mansouret said her daughter's life was strongly affected by the attack, and that she was afraid that the incident would define her career as a journalist.

Banon did not file charges at the time, but her lawyer David Koubbi reportedly says that she is now seriously considering it, and that she held back in the past because her mother counseled her against it.

Koubbi told RTL Radio Monday he is likely to file suit for Banon now because "she knows she'll be heard and she knows she'll be taken seriously."

Mansouret told French reporters that she was concerned at the time that the incident would have negative repercussions of Strauss-Kahn's family, and that she had viewed Strauss-Kahn as a "nice man." She now says she regrets counseling her daughter against filing the charges.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, has denied the charges of sexual assault in New York and will plead not guilty, his lawyer Benjamin Brafman said.

Before this weekend's scandal, Strauss-Kahn was considered a front-runner for the French presidency. A leader of the Socialist political party, a former cabinet minister and member of the French National Assembly, he had recently outpolled incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy. Though his term as IMF chief, which began in 2007, would not be over until 2012, he was expected to leave in order to focus on the presidential race. The election, which involves two rounds of voting, is scheduled for April and May 2012.

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