PARIS – A major French television news network has sacked Alain Finkielkraut, one of the country’s foremost public intellectuals, for suggesting that there may have been a rush to judgment during the fall this year. this month from a leading political scientist accused of sexually abusing his teenage stepson.
Mr Finkielkraut, 71, was invited to discuss the case of Olivier Duhamel, 70, who left college and media outlets last week after the accusations surfaced in a book. He began by telling the LCI network that Mr. Duhamel had committed “a reprehensible act”, adding that “what he did was very serious, it was inexcusable.”
Later, however, Mr. Finkielkraut, a member of the revered Académie française, embarked on a series of reflections. “Was there consent? At what age did it start? Was there some form of reciprocity? When the interviewer reminded him that the case involved “a 14-year-old child,” he said, “So what? We’re talking about a teenager, it’s not the same thing.
A social media explosion ensued. Adrien Taquet, Secretary of State for Child Protection, tweeted: “What world do you live in, Alain Finkielkraut? Are you really talking about consent between a teenager and a family member? “
Monday evening, a few hours after the show, LCI sacked Mr. Finkielkraut, writer and essayist, from his post as commentator, saying he “condemned” his words while supporting a “respectful and reasoned debate”.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Finkielkraut said he brought an action against LCI for defamation and improper termination of his contract. “Pedophilia revolts me,” he said. “My goal was not to deny the crime, which I categorically denounced, but to clarify the crime. To find out the facts of what really happened. But it seems that in such cases the examination of the facts is seen as a form of indulgence of the crime.
It was the latest in a number of instances in which a generation shaped by the All Is Well sexual liberation of May 1968 confronted a contemporary culture that recognizes and condemns predatory sexual behavior by men.
In 1977, several leading intellectuals and writers – including Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Roland Barthes, Jack Lang and Louis Aragon – signed a letter in the daily Le Monde defending three men imprisoned for three years for having suffered sexual relations with minors of 15 years. They wrote that the teens called the acts consensual and lamented the gap between “an outdated law and the everyday reality of a society beginning to recognize the existence of the sex lives of children and adolescents.”
“Three years in prison for hugs and kisses is enough,” they added.
In a book entitled “La familia grande”, Camille Kouchner accused Mr. Duhamel, who headed the supervisory body of Sciences Po University in Paris, of having persistently abused his twin brother, from l age 14. Elisabeth Guigou, former Minister of Justice, today resigned from the head of an independent commission on the prevalence of incest in France, after being identified as a friend of Mr. Duhamel.
Ms Kouchner suggested that a certain Parisian artistic and literary world – spiritual descendants of the writers, artists and intellectuals who wrote this 1977 letter – were complicit in the silence surrounding the alleged abuse by Mr Duhamel’s stepson.
One of the signatories of the letter was Gabriel Matzneff, an author accused last year of abusing a minor. Mr Finkielkraut said early last year that he was “uncomfortable with the way, through the Matzneff affair, the whole post-1968 period is being called into question, as well as the literary community. Parisian”.
In the interview, Mr Finkielkraut said: “Suddenly it seems that I am guilty of complicity because I am trying to distinguish between children and adolescents. I didn’t mean to excuse Mr. Duhamel. I have no indulgence towards pedophilia. What happened was a crime. But we have to know its exact nature. “
He continued, “There is a difference between justice in court, where lawyers plead a case, and contemporary media justice, where all distinctions disappear.”
Mr. Finkielkraut, the son of an Auschwitz survivor, is known for his outspoken and often provocative expression of his views. He was vilified for anti-Semitic abuse after he turned against the Yellow vest protest movement in 2019, claiming that the demonstrators “devastate without regard for anything or anyone”. During a demonstration, he was called a “fascist”. “Tel Aviv, back to Tel Aviv,” shouted the crowd.