One of the most typical reactions of French commentators to the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York has been a kind of knee jerk disparagement of the American criminal justice system – or the “atrocious” American criminal justice system, as one “expert” put it on the French news channel BFM. The first images of a hand-cuffed Strauss-Kahn being led out of a Harlem police station served as a lightening rod for such sentiments, with news reports vaguely suggesting that photographing or filming a restrained suspect is somehow or another incompatible with the presumption of innocence.

But at least one prominent French commentator has not joined the chorus of condemnations: namely, Marine Le Pen, who recently succeeded her father Jean-Marie as head of France’s National Front. Le Pen’s dissent is particularly interesting, given that a certain anti-Americanism is a traditional part of the National Front’s political repertoire. Interviewed this morning on BFM by the journalist Jean-Jacques Bourdin, Le Pen had this to say:

I don’t particularly like the American justice system, but in my opinion there’s at least one respect in which they have something to teach us: namely, the fact that they treat the immigrant maid and the head of the IMF perfectly equally. We have a lesson to learn from that: …on how to treat the victim [of a sexual assault], on how to treat the powerful and the poor, who should be treated on an equal basis, which is not the case in France. You know very well, if this episode had occurred in France, it would not have turned out [the same way]…

I place the last words in brackets since, as is his custom when interviewing her, Bourdin did not let Ms. Le Pen complete her sentence.

Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie had a more spontaneous, less elaborate reaction to Strauss-Kahn’s arrest. “It’s always good news to see a scoundrel in handcuffs,” he told journalists outside a Parisian restaurant.

John Rosenthal writes on European politics and transatlantic security issues. You can follow his work on Facebook here or at

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