Nearly half the French viewing population watched Strauss-Kahn speak Sunday on network TV for the first time publicly about the now-dropped charges that he sexually assaulted a hotel maid in New York.
According to French TV ratings company Mediametrie, 13.45 million viewers or 47 percent of the French viewing public tuned into the news program on the privately-run TF1 channel between 8:09pm to 8:39pm.
The number of viewers peaked at 8:30pm at 14.4 million, the ratings company said, adding it was the record for any French program in 2011.
In the interview, Strauss-Kahn apologized for having sex with Nafissatou Diallo, whose rape allegations led to his downfall. The 62-year-old also hinted that the maid's accusations might have been part of a wider conspiracy by greater powers to prevent him running in next year's presidential elections.
But Strauss-Kahn's performance failed to satisfy his biggest political critics. Jean-Francois Cope, general secretary of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling party Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), said Monday it was "extremely shocking that a conspiracy theory should have been added after all we have gone through."
Bernard Debre, another UMP representative, also poured scorn on Strauss-Kahn's implicit suggestion that Diallo was employed by the French secret services. He went on to denounce Strauss-Kahn's interview as a pre-rehearsed exercise performed by a man he described as a megalomaniac. "It was extremely carefully planned," he said.