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Hollande taking questions at a press conference in the Elysee Palace yesterday
Hollande taking questions at a press conference in the Elysee Palace yesterday
Image: Christophe Ena/AP/Press Association Images

French media criticised for 'undeniable deference' to Francois Hollande over affair claims

Britain’s rowdy media was gleefully awaiting an inquisition over his reported affair with actress Julie Gayet as he arrived to deliver a press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Jan 15th 2014, 1:44 PM 7,385 24

BRITAIN’S NEWSPAPERS HAVE been left mystified by their French counterparts’ reluctance to quiz President Francois Hollande over claims of an affair, concluding “they do things differently” across the Channel.

The Socialist leader admitted he and his partner Valerie Trierweiler are going through “painful moments” and indicated that the status of his long-term girlfriend would be clarified before a scheduled trip to the United States next month.

Trierweiler, France’s de facto First Lady, has been invited to accompany Hollande on an official visit including an overnight stay at the White House.

She has been in hospital since Friday with stress linked to last week’s revelation that Hollande, 59, has been having a secret liaison with Julie Gayet, 41.

Britain’s rowdy media was gleefully awaiting an inquisition over his reported affair with actress Julie Gayet as he arrived to deliver a press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

But they were left disappointed when “deferent” journalists largely left Hollande free to explain a series of economic reforms.

‘Undeniable deference’

“How odd it all felt,” said the Daily Telegraph’s Michael Deacon.

“For centuries we had mockingly stereotyped the French as sex-mad. When, in reality, these spotlessly abstemious souls have so little interest in sex that when their own head of state is caught up in the juiciest scandal to hit politics since Clinton-Lewinsky, they only want to ask about social security,” he joked.

He asked whether the French “were mad, or are we?”

The left-wing Guardian, generally supportive of Hollande’s claims to a private life, admitted that “they do things differently in France”.

“Would he get away with this in Britain or America? Possibly not,” said the paper’s columnist Jon Henley. “But, outraged tweets by Anglo-Saxon hacks notwithstanding, this was France.”

He praised the general quality of French journalism, but argued “there is a certain undeniable deference to the president, the living embodiment of the republic.”

The paper carried a front-page photograph of the beleaguered leader under the headline “A very French affair”.

The Times compared the developing story to the Profumo Affair, the 1963 British sex-scandal that forced the resignation of secretary for war John Profumo.

‘Kid gloves’

The Rupert Murdoch-owned paper said it was “clear that the big topic of the day would be treated with kid gloves by the French press corps.”

“When Mr Hollande’s speech ended, Alain Barluet, a political correspondent for Le Figaro and the chairman of the Presidential Press Association, seized the microphone and rose to his feet with the look of a man facing a firing squad,” wrote the paper’s Adam Sage.

“A couple of other French journalists did broach the issue again, but that was pretty much that. In short, they ensured that the peace had been safeguarded in the republic once again.”

Quentin Letts from the centre-right Daily Mail mocked those charged with quizzing Hollande, who he called the “most unlikely swordsman since Inspector Clouseau”.

“Before him sat a salon of oyster munchers, the powdered, poodling, truth-smothering trusties of polite Parisian opinion,” he wrote.

“They are aghast that the peasants should be told about presidential legeauver (sic). No wonder they never tell their people the truth about the European Commission,” he added.

Popular tabloid the Sun slammed Hollande’s performance as “the dullest hour of anyone’s life”.

It also said his insistence on privacy was a technique used “by elites worldwide since the dawn of democracy” to “let them be seen as they want to be seen — not as they are”.

© AFP, 2014

Read: French magazine alleges Francois Hollande affair with actress

Read: Francois Hollande confuses Japanese with Chinese on State visit to Japan

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