After former IMF chief and ex-presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of rape at the beginning of last week, the most public of France’s public intellectuals sprang to his aid. Writing in the Daily Beast, Bernard-Henri Lévy, or BHL as he’s known in France, condemned the presumption of guilt inferred in media coverage of the alleged rape of a hotel maid in New York. With all the fury of a pamphleteer, BHL vented his frustration: “I resent the New York tabloid press, a disgrace to the profession, that, without the least precaution and before having effected the least verification, has depicted Dominique Strauss-Kahn as a sicko, a pervert, borderlining on serial killer, a psychiatrist’s dream.” Lévy has been friends with Strauss-Kahn (himself often referred to as DSK) for two decades and considers himself a member of the French political left as well as one of its strongest critics. Here he is at the New York Public Library on stage with Slavoj Zizek in 2008.

Levy’s plea on behalf of his friend has been roundly condemned by the American media. David Rieff of The New Republic summarised BHL’s argument as “because DSK is a valuable person, he is entitled to special treatment”. And an inferred slur against the alleged victim has raised the eyebrows of feminist bloggers - although BHL couldn’t hold a candle to the French media’s more chauvinistic fringe (in French). Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the French public seems to have concluded that something was foul in the state of Sofitel. It’s been reported that most French people believe Strauss-Kahn was the victim of a set-up.

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