He was better than I thought he would be and said what he had to say, from his standpoint at least. Claire Chazal was also better than anticipated, as she asked him straight off the bat what happened in suite 2806, though this being France, did not press him with follow-up questions, try to nail him, or play gotcha. DSK, clearly understanding his problems with public opinion, was contrite and admitted his “faute morale” (moral failing) more than once. But evoking the possibility of a “piège” (trap) or “complot” (plot) was both gratuitous and ridiculous. It was also a bit rich for him to express shock at the role money plays in the American judicial system, given that he was precisely a beneficiary of this aspect of the system. If it hadn’t been for his wife’s money, he’d likely still be in Riker’s Island. I doubt he was being untruthful in anything he said about what happened with Nafissatou Diallo, including his assertion that it was not a “rapport tarifé” (i.e. a sexual act performed for a fixed or explicit monetary price). In the literal, juridical sense I am sure he was telling the truth.
We will certainly never know what happened between the two but this is the only scenario that makes any sense to me: Nafissatou D. turned occasional tricks with moneyed clients of the hotel and sought the assignment to DSK’s suite for this purpose (and it may not have been their first meeting, given that he had stayed at the hotel before). Nothing is negotiated or even said in these encounters. The act is performed, the chamber maid leaves the room, the client leaves a generous “tip” ($200, or whatever the going rate is for these things in midtown Manhattan), and she comes back to collect it. But this time DSK stiffed her, or didn’t leave enough (maybe he discovered he didn’t have enough cash in his wallet; he had neglected to go to an ATM the day before, or something like that). ND was furious and spontaneously concocted the story, without thinking through the consequences that this would have for her. Once her superiors at the hotel took charge she got caught in the engrenage. After seeing her overly theatrical interview on ABC, I knew she was b.s.-ing.
I have no idea if DSK’s TF1 performance will change perceptions. I hope not, as he doesn’t deserve it. The interview may be viewed here. During the interview DSK waved the Recommendation for Dismissal of the New York County DA’s Office. Here it is.
UPDATE: Art Goldhammer points out—correctly—that DSK’s spin on the DA’s report distorted its meaning. This was clear to me when I relistened to that part of the interview after finding the report and reading it. The reaction in the French media on DSK’s performance has thankfully been mostly negative, with many seeing it as a PR operation and lacking sincerity. The former is definitely the case. As for the latter, perhaps. I don’t know. It’s a matter of perception. E.g. the NYT’s article made reference to DSK’s “gritted teeth,” which is a purely subjective interpretation on the NYT reporter’s part. I didn’t notice DSK’s teeth. I don’t know what else he could have said in the interview, particularly in view of the judicial inquiries that are still underway.
Art Goldhammer also critiqued Claire Chazal’s lame questioning. Yes, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised that she even asked DSK what happened in suite 2806. This being France, I wasn’t expecting that. One question Chazal could have asked is how DSK plans to deal with N.Diallo’s civil suit. Will he go back to New York and testify if summoned? Il n’est pas sorti de l’auberge, ça c’est sûr…