French political commentator resigns after being accused of sexually abusing his stepson

One of France's most prominent political commentators has stepped down from his academic and media posts after being accused in a new book of the incestuous sexual abuse of his stepson.

French political commentator resigns after being accused of sexually abusing his stepson
Academic and media commentator Olivier Duhamel. Photo: AFP

Olivier Duhamel, who has described the allegations as “personal attacks”, is accused in the book, written by his stepdaughter Camille Kouchner, of abusing her twin brother when they were aged 14.

The book “La Familia grande”, which is due to be published on Thursday but has been serialised in L'Obs magazine and Le Monde, has shocked French intellectual circles given Duhamel's prominence and close connection to the elite.

While many commentators have seen France as being slow to break longstanding taboos over the abuse of minors this is not the first such controversy to make headlines over the last year.

Publisher Vanessa Springora, in a book published in January last year, accused prize-winning writer Gabriel Matzneff of abusing her while she was a minor. Film star Adele Haenel in November 2019 accused director Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing her when she was in her early teens.

Haenel and other French actresses also in February last year walked out of France's Cesar awards after filmmaker Roman Polanski – who is wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 – won best director.

Duhamel said on Twitter that following the allegations he was resigning from all his posts, including as head of the National Foundation of Political Sciences (FNSP) a body that oversees the hugely prestigious Sciences Po university.

“I am stepping down from my posts after being the target of personal attacks as I want to preserve the institutions in which I work,” said Duhamel, who also until now presented a show on Europe 1 radio and is an analyst on LCI TV.

Camille Kouchner, now 45 and a lecturer, and her twin bother are the children of France's former foreign minister and co-founder of the Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) medical charity Bernard Kouchner and academic Evelyne Pisier, who died in 2017.

Kouchner and Pisier separated and she went on to marry Duhamel.   

“I was 14 years old and let it go ahead. I was 14, I knew and said nothing,” Camille Kouchner wrote in the book, according to the published extracts.

In the book, she names her brother only as “Victor” in order to protect his privacy. But Le Monde said he had read the text twice and was happy for his sister to speak on his behalf.

“I confirm that what my sister has written concerning the actions of Olivier Duhamel towards me is correct,” “Victor” told Le Monde.

In an interview with L'Obs, Kouchner said the book revealed to what extent Duhamel's and Pisier's group of leftist intellectual friends, some of them household names in France, knew what was going on.

“Of course, I thought my book might seem obscene because of my family's fame. Then I thought to myself, this is exactly what needs to be done,” she said.

In a statement released by his lawyer, Bernard Kouchner said that a “heavy secret that has been weighing on us for too long has happily been lifted. I applaud the courage of my daughter Camille”.

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French police holding 10 over Channel boat disaster

French police are holding 10 people suspected of involvement in the November 2021 Channel drowning of migrants in which 27 people died, a judicial source said on Thursday.

French police holding 10 over Channel boat disaster

One has been charged with manslaughter and people-trafficking, and the nine others were to be taken before a judge who will decide whether to charge them as well, the source said, asking not to be named.

Police had arrested 15 people suspected of involvement overnight Sunday to Monday, but released five of them without charges.

The death of the 27 in late November was the worst disaster in the Channel since 2018, when the narrow strait became a key route for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who have been increasingly using small boats to reach England from France.

Among the 27 — aged seven to 47 — were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese migrant.

Only two people survived the disaster, which sparked tension between the British and French governments, with President Emmanuel Macron vowing France would not allow the Channel to become a “cemetery”.