President Hollande’s affair sparks media debate in France
by FFE EU News Staff
The French press has traditionally kept mum about politicians’ affairs. But the media has lately come to an unexpected turn of events as one tabloid claimed to have caught President François Hollande in an affair with an actress.
France has long protected its citizen’s right to privacy — this means that talks of affairs in the political world have always been a hush-hush topic in the media, though knowledge may be widespread in public. This is in contrast with affairs that reach scandalous levels in the press in countries like America and Britain, sometimes pushing some politicians to resign from office.
In the Philippines, where politician’s lives are, to some extent, standard media fanfare, affairs are often looked as a sign of moral stain. But this does not often affect the career of the politician in question.
According to French politics and media historian Christian Delponte, the French press started to take a peek into politicians’ lives in the 90s. This is because the politicians themselves sought for media attention, with some opening up their private lives for political gain.
Delponte said that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy played a huge role in blurring the line between the public and private spheres. Sarkozy was often criticised for flaunting his relationships with the rich and famous.
President Hollande himself is not immune to France’s evolving norms in romance. He was in a long-term relationship with politician Ségolène Royal when he met Valérie Trierweiler, now France’s quasi-First Lady. After ending his relationship with Royal in 2007, Hollande publicly announced that Trierweiler was the ‘woman of my life,’ giving media the license to talk about the relationship.
Science Po University in Paris lecturer Matthew Fraser said that the expose on the president’s alleged affair with the actress is an interesting test of the French media. By targeting Hollande openly, the magazine broke the unspoken rule of keeping mum about politician’s lives. The fact that French courts rarely award large damages may not help Hollande clean up his name even if he pursues legal action against the magazine.
Fraser said ‘If he sues and wins, the tabloid will probably be able to write the check on the spot. Obviously the magazine has made its calculations, and even if it has to pay a fine it thinks it will come out with a gain.’
Meanwhile, Hollande has responded to the allegations, saying the report was an ‘attack on [his] right to privacy.’ However, he has not yet denied the report.