Ex-IMF Chief's Sturdy Marriage Enduring New Strain
PARIS (AP) — Anne Sinclair is sacrificing millions of her family's fortune on her husband's bail and house arrest. Dominique Strauss-Kahn declared his love for his wife in a public letter, and blew her a kiss across a New York courtroom where he was charged with trying to rape a hotel maid.
This display of devotion by one of France's most famous couples isn't just for show, say those who know them. They say the force that binds the two is so strong that these grave allegations are unlikely to separate them, and express little surprise that Sinclair is sticking by her husband in this dark hour.
"It is symbiosis, a couple that is completely inseparable," French legislator and former government minister Jack Lang, who has known Strauss-Kahn since the 1970s and Sinclair since the 1980s, told The Associated Press. "One cannot imagine one without the other. One cannot imagine what they are going through."
Sinclair is her husband's connection to the outside world while he is confined to a Manhattan apartment building pending trial. She left the building Sunday for about four hours, getting into an SUV for an unknown destination, then returned. A man with her carried what looked like a grocery bag.
Sinclair and Strauss-Kahn, both 62-year-old, are seen as two fiercely intelligent minds with fierce ambitions — their biggest, to get him elected president of France next year.
Those shared goals, loyalties to their children, and a kind of symbiotic attraction has kept them together through past ordeals, including a pattern of sexual indiscretions by Strauss-Kahn, said Philippe Martinat, who co-wrote a biography of Strauss-Kahn and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"She is truly in love with this man. He's the soul mate of her life," said Martinat, who followed the couple while researching the biography. "Some suggest she closed her eyes" to past infidelities, he said. "In reality she was a woman in love who suffered a lot from this situation, but she preferred to protect and maintain her family."
He described "confrontations" in their past.
In a meeting in 2009, Martinat said Sinclair brought up a relationship that Strauss-Kahn had with a subordinate at the IMF. "She explained, very simply, how it happened, how they had discussed it, and for her it had been resolved."
"I think she will accompany him throughout the trial to help him get out of this judicial mess," he said. "If it ends badly, then we could ask if she will stay with him. ... She is a fighter."
The accusations against Strauss-Kahn had a visceral effect on his wife when she heard them, according to France's Paris-Match magazine.
A maid in a luxury New York hotel told police May 14 that Strauss-Kahn tried to force her into sex, and when she refused, forced her to perform oral sex. A few hours later, police took him off a first-class seat in an Air France plane just before its takeoff for Paris.
Sinclair quickly issued a statement saying she didn't believe the allegations.
A few days later, he submitted a letter of resignation to the IMF, telling the moneyed institution: "I think at this time first of my wife — whom I love more than anything — of my children, of my family, of my friends."
The next day, the two saw each other for the first time since his dramatic arrest. He wore a determined expression and knitted brow. Across the courtroom, she wore a steeled smile, and held her head high. When the judge agreed to release the Frenchman on bail, he turned to his wife and blew her a kiss.
"It was as if each was looking for the other's eyes. This tenderness in the courtroom marked me," Lang said.
Sinclair, granddaughter of renowned art merchant Paul Rosenberg, is footing the bill for the $1 million bail, securing the $5 million bond, and an estimated $200,000 a month for the guards and other security measures to ensure the house arrest, according to Martinat.
It's a far cry from the primetime debut of their romance.
In 1989, Strauss-Kahn, a still relatively unknown lawmaker, was a guest on a political TV show called "Questions at Home," which Sinclair co-hosted.
"There was right away a spark," Martinat said.
In 1991, they married. He had four daughters and two former wives, she had two sons and one former husband. In 1997, when Strauss-Kahn was named finance minister, Sinclair quit her acclaimed weekly interview show to avoid conflict of interest.
"She was an icon. She is still an icon. She was for a long time the most popular woman on French television," Lang said.
When Strauss-Kahn was accused in a corruption case in 1999 and had to resign from the government, Sinclair stood by him. He was later cleared. In 2006, she financed his unsuccessful campaign for the Socialist presidential nomination, according to Martinat.
French bloggers and talk show guests across the political spectrum are fascinated by the couple, and especially Sinclair's current state of mind.
One online poll on the site terrafemina.com asked women whether they would have supported their husbands, too, in her shoes. Commentary has been deeply conflicted, between those disappointed in what they see as Sinclair's blind devotion, and those in awe of what appears to be the intensity of her love.
Lang described having lunch with the couple in Washington recently: "You know how in some couples, the woman plays a supporting role, in the background. That is not the case here. With them, it's equal to equal, and you feel it."
Martinat said Sinclair told him that "the most valuable thing to her was having succeeded in the osmosis" of their combined family. Their six children get along, and one of her sons is expecting his first child, according to French media reports. Her first husband, Ivan Levai, called Strauss-Kahn "a good stepfather" and insisted he's not a violent man.
Asked in a 2006 interview in the French magazine L'Express about her husband's reputation as a seducer, Sinclair replied: "I'm rather proud. It's important to seduce, for a politician. As long as I seduce him and he seduces me, that's enough for me."
Lang described tensions in their relations over past revelations as painful but not devastating. "They have traversed storms before. I think they can traverse this one, too."