Hollande threatens legal action over report of affair
Issued on: Modified:
French President François Hollande says he is considering legal action against a French magazine after it claimed he was having an affair with an actress.
The Friday edition of a French tabloid magazine carried a seven-page spread on the 59-year-old president's alleged affair under the headline, "The president's secret love".
The weekly published seven pages of photos detailing the comings and goings outside a Paris apartment block to support its allegation.
According to the magazine, the 41-year-old actress* is seen arriving at the apartment block in Paris's upmarket 8th arrondissement (district) late at night.
A man resembling Hollande's personal bodyguard then arrives at the building. A second man – which the tabloid claimed was Hollande – then arrives on the back of a scooter. He is unidentifiable because he is wearing a black helmet.
The magazine also published photos taken in the morning, showing the first man returning to the flat with what it said was a bag of croissants. The second man then emerges, again wearing a helmet, and jumps on the back of a scooter.
The actress is well known in her native France and has appeared in numerous films, including the popular 2013 French comedy "Quai d'Orsay" in which she plays a vampish diplomatic adviser in the foreign ministry.
Rumours that Hollande was having an affair with the actress have been circulating on the internet for months.
In a statement to AFP, Hollande slammed the report as an attack on the right to privacy, to which he has a right "like every other citizen”.
Earlier, a source close to the president said, "François Hollande strongly deplores the invasion of his privacy, to which he has a right as any other citizen does. He is studying what action, including legal action, to take following this publication." However, the source did not specifically deny the affair.
The actress, a Socialist Party supporter, openly backed Hollande during the 2012 presidential race, describing him in one filmed interview as "fantastic" and "really ready to listen".
There was no immediate comment from lawyers for the actress, a mother of two. She filed a complaint for breach of privacy last March after rumours of an affair with Hollande became public.
French politicians have in the past been known to have affairs with little impact on public opinion, most notably former Socialist president Francois Mitterrand, who had a daughter with his mistress.
The French public also shrugged off Sarkozy's complicated private life during his presidency. Divorced from his wife Cecilia in 2007, Sarkozy married singer and ex-model Carla Bruni after a whirlwind romance in February 2008.
Even political opponents of Hollande were reluctant to condemn the president Friday in the wake of the tabloid exposé.
"As far as the president is concerned, as long as not a cent of public money was used ... I believe that everybody has the right to the respect of their privacy," said Marine Le Pen, of the anti-immigrant National Front, in an interview with i-Tele TV.
Hollande, 59, came to power in 2012 and according to polls is the most unpopular president in France's modern history for his failure to tackle unemployment stuck at around 11 percent and a widespread sense that he lacks authority.
The article overshadowed news of a surprise rebound in the French economy in late 2013, with the Bank of France estimating last-quarter growth at 0.5 percent and November industrial output beating analysts' forecasts.
The magazine was previously criticised in 2012 for publishing topless pictures of Kate Middleton, Britain's Duchess of Cambridge.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
* FRANCE 24 has decided not to publish either the name of the actress or the name of the publication that reported the affair allegations out of respect for the privacy of those involved.