Ben Stein’s Odd Response To The Arrest Of Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Ben Stein seems to have been out to lunch when he wrote his column about Dominique Strauss-Kahn

The French aren’t the only ones who are responding to the charges against IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn in an odd manner, last night conservative columnist Ben Stein came out with a column that can only be described as bizarre and condescending:

1.) If he is such a womanizer and violent guy with women, why didn’t he ever get charged until now? If he has a long history of sexual abuse, how can it have remained no more than gossip this long? France is a nation of vicious political rivalries. Why didn’t his opponents get him years ago?

The fact that Stein wrote this on the same day that we learned that Arnold Schwarzenegger had kept secret for a decade the fact that he a fathered a child with a member of his household staff, and that he kept that secret while he was Governor of the a state that would compromise one of the largest economies in the world is pretty amusing. Also amusing is Stein’s apparent belief that only people who have been charged with a crime before ever actually commit crimes. It’s possible he’s never heard of the concept of a “first time offender,” but I find that a little hard to believe.

2.) In life, events tend to follow patterns. People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example. Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes? Can anyone tell me of any heads of nonprofit international economic entities who have ever been charged and convicted of violent sexual crimes? Is it likely that just by chance this hotel maid found the only one in this category? Maybe Mr. Strauss-Kahn is guilty but if so, he is one of a kind, and criminals are not usually one of a kind.

Translation: Rich, white economics-type guys don’t commit crimes. Or, if they do, it usually involves raping a nation’s economy, not a hotel maid.

3.) The prosecutors say that Mr. Strauss-Kahn “forced” the complainant to have oral and other sex with him. How? Did he have a gun? Did he have a knife? He’s a short fat old man. They were in a hotel with people passing by the room constantly, if it’s anything like the many hotels I am in. How did he intimidate her in that situation? And if he was so intimidating, why did she immediately feel un-intimidated enough to alert the authorities as to her story?

Apparently, in Stein’s book, being short, old, and fat means you’re incapable of raping someone. This is what trials are for Ben.

4.) Did the prosecutors really convince a judge that he was a flight risk when he was getting on a flight he had booked long beforehand? What kind of high-pressure escape plan is that? How is it a sudden flight move to get on a flight booked maybe months ago?

Does Stein not know that Strauss-Kahn left his cell phone behind when he left the hotel, a sign that he may have left the hotel in haste that day? This, combined with the fact that he was leaving on a flight to France, a country with a record of not returning people accused of sex crimes, was obviously sufficient for the judge to determine that he was a flight risk. He was, in other words, treated exactly like any other person accused of a crime would be, which leads us to………….

5.) Mr. Strauss-Kahn had surrendered his passport. He had offered to stay in New York City. He is one of the most recognizable people on the planet. Did he really have to be put in Riker’s Island? Couldn’t he have been given home detention with a guard? This is a man with a lifetime of public service, on a distinguished level, to put it mildly. Was Riker’s Island really the place to put him on the allegations of one human being? Hadn’t he earned slightly better treatment than that? Any why compare him with a certain pedophile from France long ago? That man had confessed to his crime. Mr. Strauss-Kahn has not confessed to anything.

Translation: How dare they treat him like any other person accused of a crime.

6.) People accuse other people of crimes all of the time. What do we know about the complainant besides that she is a hotel maid? I love and admire hotel maids. They have incredibly hard jobs and they do them uncomplainingly. I am sure she is a fine woman. On the other hand, I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics, stealing airline tickets from me, stealing money from me, throwing away important papers, stealing medications from me. How do we know that this woman’s word was good enough to put Mr. Strauss-Kahn straight into a horrific jail? Putting a man in Riker’s is serious business. Maybe more than a few minutes of investigation is merited before it’s done.

How dare they believe a hotel maid over the word of a distinguished French socialist.

7.) In this country, we have the presumption of innocence for the accused. Yet there’s my old pal from the Ron Ziegler/ Richard Nixon days, Diane Sawyer, anchor of the ABC Nightly News, assuming that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is guilty. Right off the bat she leads the Monday news by saying that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is in Riker’s… “because one woman stood her ground…” That assumes she’s telling the truth and he’s guilty. No such thing has been proved and it’s unfortunate for ABC to simply assume that an accusation is the same as a conviction. Maybe he’s in jail because one person didn’t tell the truth. I don’t know one way or the other, but I sure know that there has been no conviction yet.

Stein has a slight point here. DSK is innocent until proven guilty, but that’s a concept that really only applies in a court of law. The press is not bound by it at all, and neither are the 300-odd million people who are never going to serve on what ever jury might hear the case should it go to trial.

Stein goes on to accuse the people who brought up the cost of DSK’s hotel room of class warfare, but his entire piece reeks of an elitism that is really quite offensive. It’s wrong to assume that DSK is guilty because he’s the rich head of the IMF who stayed at an expensive motel, but it’s simply absurd to argue, as Stein does, that DSK deserves to be treated better than the average rape suspect because of who he is. That may be how things work in Europe, but it isn’t how they work here. If  Strauss-Kahn spend the entire time between now and his trial on Riker’s Island, then he will be no different than the thousands of other people who make their way through the New York criminal justice system every year, and that’s just fine with me.



FILED UNDER: Crime, Europe, World Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Chad S says:

    The reason he didn’t get bail is because he can leave the country pretty quickly. He has a contract with Air France where he can get any first class seat at any time without much notice(if any).

  2. john personna says:

    Felix Salmon used to run a Ben Stein Watch, as he regarded the guy as dangerous to any unwary reader who would take him as a sane economic commentator:

    By the time I left Portfolio, the Ben Stein Watch archives (conveniently available at amounted to 60 separate blog entries, totaling 33,776 words. And although they were popular, they never achieved their stated aim: Stein is still writing for the NYT. But I’m putting the BSW to an end right now.

    Felix did bring back a Ben Stein Watch, DSK edition for this occasion.

    So, sadly the Stein column is only “bizarre” to those who haven’t been tracking the guy.

  3. della says:

    Do we really not have extradition agreement with France? Isn’t that really weird between two developed countries? I understand that some countries will refuse to extradite in death penalty cases even when there are extradition agreements between us and them, but that does not apply in this case surely.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    Rich, white economics-type guys don’t commit crimes. Or, if they do, it usually involves raping a nation’s economy, not a hotel maid.

    You know, when I read his opinion piece, I tried to translate in my head what he was really saying in some way that didn’t involved race, class, and entitlements. In the end, the only conclusion I could get from that paragraph was that “rich, white economics-type guys don’t commit crimes.”

    The whole article was pretty despicable.

    Now, jwest/SH defending Stein in 3…2…1…

  5. Chad S says:

    @Della: we do have a treaty with France, but there’s a lot of exceptions to extradition. France can basically protect someone for years with semantics and paperwork.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    It of course never occurs to guys like Stein that if they find Rikers too harsh for rich, white guys, it’s just possible it’s too harsh for black defendants, Hispanics, poor whites . . .

    Chances that Stein or his fellow conservatives will suddenly start calling for reform at Rikers? Zero. Because Riker’s is just for low class animals.

  7. roger says:

    The US had a battle with France over the extradition of Ira Einhorn. He fled this country before his trial and was found guilty and sentenced to life in abstentia.

    Roman Polanski lived in France after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor (she was 13!).

    So yeah, there was good need to get DSK before that plane left.

  8. Hey Norm says:

    I’m confused…why do we care what Ben Stein thinks?

  9. ptfe says:

    I love this line: “People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example.” They certainly don’t flip burgers at McDonald’s or wear police uniforms or become public servants. They just run around committing crimes! I mean, shouldn’t we be able to identify these guys by now?

  10. TG Chicago says:

    Man, all you have to do is read Stein’s point #2 right next to his point #6 and the veil is lifted. Just despicable.

    In relation to point #3, DSK is a short, fat, old RICH WHITE man and the maid is a relatively-poor African woman. How can Stein fail to realize that this dynamic makes intimidation quite simple?

    And I’d like to second michael reynolds’ point above. Well said.

  11. Have a nice G.A. says:

    lol, rich white guy, I thought the French was yellow?

  12. Janis Gore says:

    Gee. I wonder if under other conditions DSK would take exception to being described as “a short fat old man.” The guy is only 62.

  13. ponce says:

    lol, rich white guy, I thought the French was yellow?

    I think the religions of the alleged criminal and the alleged victim is more problematic.

    Especially this week when the press is trying so very hard to ignore the fact that Israel just gunned down a bunch of unarmed protesters.

  14. Especially this week and last week and the week before when the press is trying so very hard to ignore the fact that Israel Syria just gunned down a bunch of unarmed protesters.

    There, fixed that for you.

    But with respect to DSK, every defense of him or questioning of his arrest and processing through the criminal justice system seems to be nothing more than a third person variant of “Do you know who I am?” Class and castes still exist in Europe (and much of the world. The US, not so much.

  15. TG Chicago says:


    There, fixed that for you.

    I admit that this isn’t a flawless methodology, but a Google News search of Israel protestors gets about half as many hits as Syria protestors does.

    Do you have any basis for your implication that Israel’s actions are getting more press (especially in the US) than Syria’s are?

  16. Just that Syria’s attempts to get the media’s focus placed back on Israel worked better than even they probably expected.

  17. ponce says:

    Just that Syria’s attempts to get the media’s focus placed back on Israel worked better than even they probably expected.

    Because there’s no way the Palestinians living under Israel’s system of Apartheid could arrange peaceful demonstrations on their own like their fellow Arabs have done around the Middle East.

  18. george says:

    Especially this week when the press is trying so very hard to ignore the fact that Israel just gunned down a bunch of unarmed protesters.

    Lots of countries gunning down unarmed protesters this week … not sure there’s any reason to single out Israel. Or that it has anything to do with the press reaction to DSK … a juicy sexual scandal almost always pushes almost everything else off the front pages.

  19. ponce says:

    Or that it has anything to do with the press reaction to DSK

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn is Jewish.

    His alleged victim is a Muslim.

  20. george says:

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn is Jewish.

    His alleged victim is a Muslim.

    You know, that’s the first time I saw either of those mentioned. It doesn’t seem to be an angle the press is playing up – all I’ve read is about the disparity of income between the two.

  21. Southern Hoosier says:

    ponce says: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 16:06

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn is Jewish.

    His alleged victim is a Muslim.

    Since she is a Muslim that has now been raped by a Jew, she has dishonored her family and they have to kill her. She doesn’t have 4 male witness, so under Islamic law she can’t prove she was raped.