Newspapers focused on the stain to his image from his liaison with a New York hotel maid.
Strauss-Kahn could be home as early as next week, after settling his affairs in Washington where he was based as head of the International Monetary Fund until his mid-May arrest on attempted rape charges, which were dropped on Tuesday.
His lawyer in France, Henri Leclerc, said he was not aware of a set date for Strauss-Kahn to return.
Far from celebrating the exoneration of a man who had been pegged as France’s next president before his arrest and who has long been affectionately known in France by his initials DSK, newspaper editorials were sober and reflective.
“Far from being cleared, DSK will now have to live with, rather like another kind of sentence, the suspicious regard of public opinion,” wrote Yves Threard in the daily, Le Figaro.
Left-wing Liberation ran its story under the headline: “One dismissal but three ball-and-chains”, referring to the three open legal cases against Strauss-Kahn relating to alleged misconduct.
The main opposition Socialist Party, which lost its top economic thinker with Strauss-Kahn’s downfall, has cheered the dropping of charges but given no indication of what role he might play in the future, focusing instead on preparing for its annual congress this weekend in the seaside town of La Rochelle.
Segolene Royal, one of a handful of Socialist presidential hopefuls, sought to change the subject when pressed on BFM TV to talk about Strauss-Kahn:
“I don’t want to comment about this. I will not discuss his future activities,” she said.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who, polls show, could win around 13% of the vote in the first election round in April, said the dropping of all the criminal sex assault charges left a “nauseating” and “bitter” taste in the mouth.
The decision to scrap the case ended a three-month saga that filled newspapers around the world with sordid details about his nine-minute liaison with maid Nafissatou Diallo, which his lawyers say was consensual.
Political analysts say Strauss-Kahn may never win back the respect of the French people and could struggle to be accepted in public office given the tarnishing of his image from the case and what it revealed about his private life.