France’s disgraced former deputy parliamentary speaker Denis Baupin has outraged women by dismissing multiple claims he sexually harassed and assaulted party colleagues, describing his actions as “a game of seduction,” “misunderstood libertinism” and “erotic exchanges between consenting adults.”
“I’m not the Greens’ DSK,” declared 53 year-old Denis Baupin, the ex-ecology movement luminary who was forced to resign as vice-president of the French National Assembly over the affair. Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), the former Socialist presidential aspirant, was obliged to stand down as IMF boss in 2011 when a Manhattan hotel maid accused him of raping her. The claim was settled out of court after the New York prosecutor dropped the investigation, but DSK was the object of many allegations he serially harassed and assaulted women.
In an interview with L’Obs magazine Baupin even suggested the allegations against him were part of a politically motivated plot, and denied ever sexually bullying, groping or assaulted his female peers.
Eight prominent women from the French Greens EELV party – whose numbers have since grown to 13 – went to the media last month to air their claims of “salacious” text messages, bottom pinching in elevators, and threats they would never work again in politics if they didn’t sleep with the environmental politician, idolized for his introduction of Paris’s revolutionary Velib bike-sharing system. Party spokesperson Sandrine Rousseau said that in one incident after a policy meeting Baupin pushed her pushed against a wall in a darkened corridor, grabbed her by the breasts and tried to kiss her on the lips.
The willingness of the alleged victims to speak out against “the master’s right” to forced “seduction” in French politics, prompted a wave of current and former female politicians including France’s one-time finance minister Christine Lagarde, now International Monetary Fund managing director, to announce they would no longer tolerate a culture of sexual harassment in the corridors of Gallic power.
But Baupin counter-attacked in his first interview since the scandal broke, saying he never acted aggressively and denied sending messages to assistant Mayor of Mans Elen Debost like: “I am in a train and I would like to sodomize you in thigh-high boots.”
“Given the type of responses [Debost sent me] there was no ambiguity: the game was played on both sides. I still have SMSs where she said she found the game ‘arousing,’” he retorted.
“There is kind of complicity or a search for complicity,” the father-of-three, and partner of Hollande Government Housing Minister Emmanuelle Cosse said of the so-called “consenting” interactions.
“We are two adults who have sexual and emotional lives that allow us to throw a few ‘winks’ to each other.’
“I’m in the seduction category, and engaged in a form of libertinism that fits in with the Greens’ culture.”
However, Greens identities and alleged targets of Baupin’s harassment and groping, Rousseau, parliamentarian Isabelle Attard, Debost and Annie Lahmer said they deplored his attempts to blame the victims, and called on other women to come forward with testimonies.
“We find this defense strategy regrettable and completely out of sync with the gravity, repetition and consistency of facts between the 13 women who have testified,” they said in a joint statement.
“By denying the facts and at the same time attacking the credibility of the victims, Baupin is employing a tactic that is unfortunately far too typical in this kind of affair.”
For his part Baupin conceded society had moved on since the “post-1968 era” and attitudes were “less open.”
“I have evolved,” he said, accepting that “flirting” could be experienced as something “painful” for women.
The Paris prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation into the harassment claims in May, but police are yet to interview Baupin, who remains a member of the French Parliament.