Francois Hollande probably had a horrible day today. After giving a long speech on France’s economic situation and his plan for reform, the people in the room only wanted to ask about his love life.
Last week Closer Magazine, a French publication formerly known for publishing pictures of a topless Kate Middleton, published photographs that appeared to show the French President riding a motorbike across the city to spend the night with a 41-year-old actress, Julie Gayet. French first lady Valerie Trierweiler is reported to have been hospitalized for fatigue following the revelations.
The affair was the only real reason the world’s press was watching the press conference, but Hollande refused to answer questions about the alleged affair, only saying that he was having a “difficult moment” and that that “private matters should be dealt with privately.”
Of course, that won’t satiate anyone, and it’s a big problem for Hollande. His presidency is beginning to look like a disaster, with economy in terrible shape, his popularity continuing to set record lows, and a Dutch newspaper even making fun of his handshake.
Is there any hope? Well, there’s a glimmer: If you’re going to be a politician having an affair, France is certainly the place to do it. Not only is there a history of it (Valérie Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, and Nicolas Sarkozy have all been accused) but the French public seems to have a remarkable tolerance for it. When Pew Research Center surveyed citizens of different countries about infidelity last year, they found that a median of 79% felt affairs were morally unacceptable. By far the lowest recorded number was in France, where just 47% called it unacceptable.
Could it be working already? According to one poll, the French president’s approval ratings have grown by 2% since the scandal broke.
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