When the news broke that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), had been arrested for sexual assault and attempted rape in New York City, his wife Anne Sinclair wasted no time in declaring her unquestioned belief in his innocence. The heiress to an art-gallery fortune, Sinclair, also 62, is a celebrity in her own right, having been an award-winning radio and television journalist in France. She has stood by him in the recent past. In 2008, Strauss-Kahn was reprimanded by the IMF after his relationship with the Hungarian economist (and his subordinate at the institution) Piroska Nagy became a public scandal.
Sinclair is Strauss-Kahn's third wife. He was first married in 1967 to Hélène Dumas, whom he met in 1963 in the south of France when she was 16 and he was 14, when he was in the equivalent of 12th grade. When his parents opposed their living together, the pair got married. They would have a daughter, Vanessa. He and Dumas appeared to be inseparable as Strauss-Kahn became active in leftist political circles and befriended many of the people who'd later become Socialist Party heavyweights like himself. He also became acquainted with many who would go into business and then support the Socialist Party financially.
As part of that networking, Strauss-Kahn met a communications expert who inspired him to undergo a radical makeover in 1983 that included him shaving his beard, losing his eyeglasses and updating his wardrobe. That expert was Brigitte Guillemette. And in 1984, he married her after what is described as a civil but rapid rupture with his childhood sweetheart, Dumas. The divorce, however, did not sit well with others. Many of Strauss-Kahn and Dumas' friends chose to continue seeing her while avoiding him and Guillemette. Strauss-Kahn and Guillemette would have a daughter, Camille, in 1985.
Another rupture would follow after Strauss-Kahn was introduced to Sinclair, a rising TV journalist. Strauss-Kahn was introduced to the then married Sinclair in 1989 by advisers feeling he needed more professional media coaching. He reportedly fell for her immediately, calling her several times a day. Both kept their relationship under wraps for quite a while though that didn't prevent another notorious ladies' man, then President François Mitterrand, from catching on to the secret affair and commenting about it to associates. Strauss-Kahn and Sinclair finally married in 1991 after divorcing their respective spouses.
Sinclair's loyalty goes beyond just turning a blind eye to his reported and rumored infidelities. It has also affected her career. She had been enormously popular as the host of a political talk show for France's leading network TF1 in the mid- and late 1990s. But after his star began to ascend in earnest in the Socialist Party hierarchy, TF1's conservative ownership and management decided Sinclair's proximity to a sitting member of government (Strauss-Kahn was Minister of Finance at the time) created a conflict of interest and moved her from the political programs she'd built her career on, putting her in charge of the TF1 affiliate in charge of what was then the obscure Internet operations, a post TF1 downgraded to vice president a little later. In 2001, Sinclair and TF1 parted ways for good, a move Sinclair has recently said involved her being unceremoniously thrown out for her political and marital loyalties. Asked by the weekly L'Express whether it bothered her that her husband had "a reputation as a seducer," Sinclair replied slightly circuitously, "No, I'm actually rather proud of it! It's important to seduce for a politician. As long as he seduces me and I seduce him, that's good enough for me."
Guillemette, like Sinclair, has acknowledged that Strauss-Kahn cheated on her, but the two women heatedly contest notions that there was anything predatory or violent in his character. On Tuesday, Guillemette disputed the account of her goddaughter Tristane Banon of being sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn in 2003. She told the French paper Le Parisien: "Why is a young woman deciding to file a complaint several years after the event, the day when a 25-year prison sentence is hanging over the man she accuses?" As for the New York charges, Guillemette told the daily, "The facts related by the American police are not compatible with the man I know and with whom I lived for more than 10 years." She also told the paper that she would desist from making more commentary and leave the talking to Strauss-Kahn's current wife.
With reporting by Jeffrey Iverson / Paris