The Cambridge Union Society has been silent in the face of protests over its decision to host Dominique Strauss-Kahn as a speaker, but on Thursday it finally gave an explanation: The U.K. university club claims it invited Strauss-Kahn to speak way back in early 2010, and finally landed him. "We invited him a very long time ago due to his then-role as head of the IMF and his experience of French politics," club spokeswoman Sophie Odenthal told the Associated Press.
But Ruth Graham, the Cambridge University student union's women's officer, didn't buy that the society was simply interested in Strauss-Kahn's political and economic views. "The last time they invited a former head of the IMF, about 12 people turned up," Graham told the AP. "They're not doing it because of his academic credentials. They are doing it to profit from the controversy."
Cambridge students have become increasingly vocal in their opposition to Strauss-Kahn's appearance, and on Tuesday Reuters reported that a women's group had booked Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer representing Nafissatou Diallo, the Sofitel Hotel chambermaid suing Strauss-Kahn, to speak on the campus hours before Strauss-Kahn. At the time the only comment from the club had come from Cambridge Union Society president Katie Lam, who said in an email, "An invitation to the Union does not imply support or endorsement." The society has hosted a satellite address from former Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Qaddafi in 2007 and it was where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange first spoke publicly after his 2010 arrest.
It will be Strauss-Kahn's first public appearance in Europe since he sat for a French television interview in September 2011, shortly after his return from the United States after avoiding prosecution. But as The Atlantic Wire noted in February, Strauss-Kahn's been quietly rebuilding his public profile, speaking at a Beijing economic conference in December and booking the Cambridge gig and another appearance in Brussels for March 27 with Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker.