Dominique Strauss-Kahn broke his silence four months after a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault, calling his encounter a "moral failing" he deeply regretted, but denying violence was involved.
Mr Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and a one-time top French presidential contender, also denied using violence against a French writer who claims he tried to rape her in a separate 2003 incident.
Throughout what appeared to be a heavily scripted 20-minute-long interview with French broadcaster TF1 on Sunday night, Mr Strauss-Kahn managed to come off as contrite even as the Socialist Party politician insisted he had not forced himself on either of the women.
He said his May 14 sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo, an African immigrant who claimed that he attacked her when she entered his room in Manhattan's Sofitel hotel to clean it, "did not involve violence, constraint or aggression". However, he acknowledged, it "was a moral failing and I am not proud of it. I regret it infinitely. I have regretted it every day for the past four months and I think I'm not done regretting it".
It "was not only an inappropriate relationship, but more than that, it was a failing ... a failing vis-a-vis my wife, my children and my friends but also a failing vis-a-vis the French people, who had vested their hopes for change in me".
Mr Strauss-Kahn resigned from the IMF's top job in the wake of the scandal. Though he did not rule out a future return to politics, the man once widely regarded as the Socialists' best hope of beating France's incumbent conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy said he needed to take time to think about his future.
Mr Strauss-Kahn said that the New York prosecutor - who dropped all criminal charges against him in the Diallo case last month - had concluded the maid "lied about everything". "Not only about her past, that's of no importance, but also about what happened. The (prosecutor's) report says, it's written there, that 'she presented so many different versions of what happened that I can't believe a word',"he said.
Mr Strauss-Kahn also proclaimed his innocence in a separate legal battle pitting him against a young French writer and journalist who alleges he tried to rape her during a 2003 interview for a book she was writing.
The writer, Tristane Banon, has maintained she and Mr Strauss-Kahn ended up tussling on the floor during an interview in an empty apartment, with the politician trying to open her jeans and bra and putting his fingers in her mouth and underwear. "The version that was presented (by Ms Banon) is an imaginary version, a slanderous version," Mr Strauss-Kahn said, adding that "no act of aggression, no violence" had taken place between the two.
Because a police investigation into the claims is continuing, Mr Strauss-Kahn declined to say anything more about the matter. If Paris prosecutors decide to pursue the case, he could face a possible trial.