Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Le Scandale

You think you have a big scandale here at home with a few lane closures. Well, my French scandale is bigger than your New Jersey scandal. Let me pull a Chris Christie on you: I am sad, very sad. I am embarrassed and humiliated about the sex scandal unfolding in France.

My president, François Hollande was caught spending the night with his new ladylove, French actress Julie Gayet. The peopl(ish) magazine Closer (closer to the gutter than to the people, if you want a ranking) took photos of the president daft-punk(ed) with a helmet leaving the Elysée Palace on a Vespa. Another photo shows the president entering a building; another one shows the security detail personnel bringing croissants in the morning; then the president exiting the building, hoping back on the Vespa to return to leading the country; finally the movie star(let) exiting the same building.
And you know what the French media did? They reported on it!!! They revealed the information and they wrote an article. They even published the photos. Shame on them! Shame on the French media! Private life should be paramount. In France, the Omertà on presidential sex life is sacred. Mitterrand fathered a love child with his long time mistress and no one bothered to report on it for 20 years. President Pompidou was rumored to host partouzes, the French word for orgies. The French press, so infused in the noble principle of private life did not quip much of a word. For Napoleon the 3rd's sake, if a president of the Republic of France cannot have an affair, then, who can? And don't suggest they should move to North Korea!

It is a scandale that the Internet exists. The president should not have to take any precaution to meet his paramour. Please don't bring up the argument that different times bring different mores. Don't you know that France does not give a dam about smartphone technology, the Internet, Facebook or Twitter. They use it but how is that even relevant to the conversation? Look, Mitterrand met with his women on a regular basis. Was that ever photographed? No! It is therefore perfectly natural that François Hollande would expect the same courtesy. 

The media's nosiness is a disgrace. Why should they ask about lapses in the French president's security, or whether bringing croissants to the president's mistress is in the job description of his security detail? Why should the media ask about the owner of the apartment where the pair of sweethearts was mating? No, please, this is only François Hollande's business. Enough with the prying! If he gets assassinated on a Vespa while on his way to his inamorata, it's none of the French people's business, or the media, or anybody else.

You could make the case that it's not even his roommate's business. Valérie Trierweiler, the French First Lady who lives at the Élysée Palace and enjoys a five-person cabinet is not married to the President. They are "en concubinage", the French expression for living partners, which gave the English word "concubine". I'm sure that in François's mind: No marriage=no cheating.

It is a scandale. A somber scandale. Trierweiler, Hollande's girlfriend since 2005 is in the hospital, recovering from "gros coup de blues," or a "severe case of the blues", according to a spokesperson. In France, it's a disease. Vulpine commentators jumped to conclusions alleging that she may have attempted to commit suicide. They even claimed that this rumor had been confirmed by US media. Because of course, it's so Un-French but oh so American to report on sex scandals.

The Hunting of the President

In 2012, French actress Julie Gayet was asked to tape a segment in support of Francois Hollande, then French presidential candidate. Here's what she had to say back then of the one who's alleged to be her lover today.