Too Proud to Be Jealous

Article excerpt

Byline: Buck is a writer, actor, and former editor in chief of French Vogue.

She was pretty and successful. He was a skirt chaser now accused of attempted rape. Why does wife Anne Sinclair put up with DSK? How French women think.

By Joan Juliet Buck

Anne Sinclair was as unimpeachable as Barbara Walters, as luscious as Diane Sawyer, as authoritative as both. For 13 years, from 1984 to 1997, she hosted 7/7, a show on TF1, France's main TV channel, where a prominent guest commented on the week's news. With her curly black hair, blue eyes, pale skin, and curves, she gave off an aura of relaxed sexuality. Her onscreen costume was a curiously intimate range of electric-blue mohair sweaters. The granddaughter of Picasso's art dealer Paul Rosenberg, she had family money--along with looks, clout, and gravitas. The fact that she was Jewish was pointed out in ways both sly and crude--the National Front called her "une pulpeuse charcuti re casher" ("a juicy kosher pork butcher"). But she was the brightest of all French television stars.

She was, in a way, Oprah for French guys: a thinking minority woman with a great rack who could understand them and make them famous.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn had been trying to meet her for years. A young economist, he was a mystery guest on one of her shows in 1989. Though married, she fell under his charm within a few days. He told her about his childhood in Morocco, in Agadir, and his four children by two marriages. She had two of her own. He told her he played around, was "an incorrigible skirt chaser." She's reported to have said either "That's my problem, not yours," or "I'll change you." They married in November 1991. For years, whenever a friend brought up her husband's proclivities, she would throw her napkin down on the table and leave the lunch.

At first, Strauss-Kahn was known as Monsieur Sinclair. When, in 1997, he was named minister of finance and industry, she retired from the screen to avoid a conflict of interest and took an administrative job at the network. She bought a riad in Marrakech, where the French elite gather, and left TF1 in 2001. By the time Strauss-Kahn was named head of the IMF, he was considered to be one of the most brilliant economists in the world. He was going to run for president of France; polls showed that 65 percent of the French wanted him, and that Anne Sinclair was twice as popular as Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. They would have been the first Jewish couple in the Elysee Palace, a "revanche," as some put it, "on the Dreyfus affair."

When the news broke that Strauss-Kahn was accused of raping a chambermaid in the Sofitel hotel in New York, it seemed like it must have been a setup. Strauss-Kahn was paranoid at the end of April, telling Le Monde that "the Russian" at the IMF wanted to see him go down before he quit, that Vladimir Putin was behind it, and Putin was close to Sarkozy.

Sinclair got a phone call on her way home from a birthday party, spent the night at her best friend's house, and flew to her husband's side in New York, where she put up the $1 million bail, the $5 million bond, and rented the $50,000-a-month house in Tribeca--all this possible because of her inheritance, said to be as much as $200 million.

In mid-July, a new sex scandal erupted. Eight years after the fact, a young writer named Tristane Banon accused Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape when she interviewed him for a book--on the mistakes men make--in 2003. At the time, her mother, Anne Mansouret, told her to say nothing. Now Mansouret herself has admitted to having had consensual but "brutal" sex with Strauss-Kahn, which gave rise to a new round of legal action among the women in his life. (Strauss-Kahn has denied wrongdoing in both the Sofitel and Banon cases.)

Anne Sinclair is too powerful a person and too intelligent to be a patsy, but her impeccable behavior is a puzzle on both sides of the Atlantic. …