Washingtonian's Fawning Strauss-Kahn Profile Gets a Rewrite

The perils of long-lead press: a 3,000-word profile doesn't mention rape allegations

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With the world crashing down around Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the 62-year-old former IMF chief would probably cherish an opportunity to turn back the clock to before his May 14 arrest on allegations of sexual assault. Well thanks to Washingtonian magazine, he can do precisely that.

The DC lifestyle periodical has just published a fawning 3,000-plus-word profile of Strauss-Kahn with no mention of the rape allegations dominating world news every night. How come? The June issue, which just landed on newsstands this week, had already gone to print by the time of Strauss-Kahn's arrest. "We had no way to know that Strauss-Kahn would be front-page news by the time the issue arrived in the homes of subscribers and on newsstands," writes an editor on the Washingtonian's website Monday. So what do we make of this profile with a giant hole in the story? It's a fascinating window into how one singular encounter can transform someone's media identity from a celebrated politician to a manipulative, sex-crazed monster. Here's a chart from the magazine that gives a quick overview of how Strauss-Kahn was seen on both sides of the Atlantic before the scandal.

The article begins by calling Strauss-Kahn an "acclaimed finance minister," a "successful mayor" and an overall "well-regarded politician." But what's more, this genius of a man is in Washington's own backyard!

One of the oddities of life here is the relative anonymity of some of the very powerful people who work in official Washington. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is such a man. He's the leading candidate to become the next president of France, yet Strauss-Kahn and his wife can sit on the patio at Cafe Milano without a single paparazzo or gawker... They don't get a second glance in the checkout line at the Georgetown Whole Foods.

The anonymity of course didn't last long. Other moments in the profile just focus on how cool life is when you're Dominique Strauss-Kahn. "He travels 150 days a year across the globe," writes the magazine. "Heads of state call him on his BlackBerry." He's also an awesome chess player, which of course makes him an awesome politician. "As a chess player--some say he plays up to two or three hours a days on his iPad--Strauss-Kahn understood the value of having a key role on the world's chess board."

On its website Monday, the Washingtonian attempted to salvage the article and published a rewrite with details since his arrest. Surprisingly, the profile is still quite friendly to the accused rapist. Strauss-Kahn is recast as a "political survivor" who has "weathered other storms" in the past. "While few French political analysts have been ready to say with certainty that his political career is over, the consensus is that it will be very difficult for him to recover," writes Apolline de Malherbe, the French journalist who authored both versions. She goes on to chronicle his professional accomplishments in the same manner that occurs in the first version, depicting him as a capable leader during the global financial crisis and a savvy cost-cutter at the IMF. The article only re-examines Strauss-Kahn's current situation in the last sentence of the piece—a final ending note that may strike some as rather soft. "All questions about his political aspirations—at least in the near term—have taken a back seat to discussions of guilt or innocence."

There were few redactions in the web edition of the article, save for the description of Strauss-Kahn's marriage with Anne Sinclair. Originally, Malherber wrote that "they're more than a married couple; they're a team—she's always on his arm when they walk around." It makes sense that the editors wouldn't want to portray their marriage as rock solid, in light of the rape accusations. But if anything, Sinclair's willingness to stand by Strauss-Kahn in the current environment does speak to her commitment to him.

In the first edition's most prescient moment, Malherbe highlights Strauss-Kahn's fundamental flaw. "DSK didn't take one thing into account when he moved here: When it comes to fidelity in marriage, the standards in the United Stares are higher than in France." The line appeared verbatim in both versions.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.