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Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Ex-French President, Accused of Groping Journalist

EntertainmentValéry Giscard d’Estaing, Ex-French President, Accused of Groping Journalist

PARIS — A German journalist has accused former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing of France of groping her after a 2018 interview at his office in Paris, an episode that she said she had decided to make public now in a demonstration of the continuing influence of the #MeToo movement.

The journalist — Ann-Kathrin Stracke, a 37-year-old reporter for WDR, a German public broadcaster — said in an interview that aired Thursday that Mr. Giscard d’Estaing, who is 94, repeatedly groped her buttocks.

Ms. Stracke said she filed an official complaint in March with the Paris prosecutors office, which declined to comment on Friday about the accusations, and it was unclear whether the French police had opened an official investigation.

Jean-Marc Fedida, Mr. Giscard d’Estaing’s lawyer, said in an emailed statement that the former president had no recollection of the incident and was not aware of an official complaint against him. He said that he would consider legal action against “a particularly undignified and offensive media attack.”

Mr. Giscard d’Estaing, who was France’s president from 1974 to 1981, has mostly receded from political life, though he remains active to at least a small degree. He is still a member of the country’s Constitutional Council, a top court that reviews the constitutionality of legislation, and of the Académie Française, the official guardians of the French language.

After the interview, she said, she and Mr. Giscard d’Estaing posed for a group photo.

“While we were taking the photo, the hand of Mr. Giscard d’Estaing moved to my waist, and from there it continued toward the left buttock, where it remained,” Ms. Stracke told WDR. “I tried to remove this hand, I did not succeed, and I was surprised by how strong he was.”

According to Ms. Stracke, Mr. Giscard d’Estaing touched her buttock twice more until her cameraman knocked over a lamp to create a distraction, allowing her to extricate herself from the situation.

Ms. Stracke and the cameraman reported the incident to WDR after they returned to Cologne, where the channel is based. Jörg Schönenborn, a WDR program director, said in the broadcast on Thursday that the channel hired a law firm to interview witnesses from the television crew to provide an independent assessment.

“The report was very clear about what happened,” Mr. Schönenborn said. And in a protest letter addressed to Mr. Giscard d’Estaing last June, the broadcaster wrote that “we cannot tolerate our employees being confronted with such situations.”

The former president’s office acknowledged receipt of the letter a month later.

Ms. Stracke told Le Monde this week that she had not immediately thought to file a complaint, partly because she knew little about the French legal system. The #MeToo movement has met with some resistance in France, but she said that the increased public awareness and discussion of sexual harassment and assault had changed her mind.

“I decided to share this because I think that when a former French president in some form sexually harasses a reporter, in this case me, after an interview — because that’s what it was — people should know about it,” Ms. Stracke told WDR on Thursday.

Aurelien Breeden reported from Paris, and Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin.

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