French Farce - President Sarkozy, a pliant French Press, tangled love lives and hiding the poignees d'amour
Arnaud Lagardere is a close friend of French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. His media empire (Lagardere Active Media LAM ) includes Paris Match - and Elle, Europe 1 TV, and the Journal du Dimanche... On August 25th 2005 Paris Match had a scoop.
The tall, elegant, somtimes wife, Cécilia Sarkozy was pictured on the cover on a New York visit with her then boyfriend, the advertising executive and Frech Moroccan Richard Attias CEO of Publicis the massive global advertising agency ......and sales soared to a record 900,000 copies - outselling the issue reporting the death of Pope John Paul II.
The cooing lovebirds had both consented to the photography and its publication. Meanwhile jilted hubby, Sarko was consoling himself with a 47 year old brunette , Anne Fulda a right wing journalist from Figaro (see pic . Who had published a biography of Jacques Chirac) - and spent a sunny Christmas with her on Mauritius. It was at this time that Tony Blair cancelled a planned Downing Street session with him and met him briefly at a hotel instead because he was meeting President Chirac and Downing Street met the demands of the Elysée Palace that M Sarkozy must not be entertained at No 10. The talks were swiftly and diplomatically moved to a Marriott Hotel..
Le Canard enchaîné -- reported that the cuckolded (and not a little upset) pint sized French Interior Minister demanded that his friend Arnaud Lagardère dismiss Paris Match's editor-in-chief since 1999, Alain Genestar. He was offered an Irishman's rise - sideways promotion, he refused and left .(Lagardère insists his exit was due to declining circulation. Ho.Ho.Ho)
"Between the Heart and Reason " ("Entre le coeur et la raison"( -- was a thinly disguised novel of the affair cobbled together by Paris journalist Valérie Domain, with the help and approval of Cecilia Sarkozy. The first print run of 25,000 copies was pulped on the orders of the apoplectic Minister of the Interior. (The same one who, a few weeks later, when asked about the row over the Prophet Mohammed cartoons, said he preferred that people's feeling were hurt to imposing censorship.) It was eventually published in February 2006 by new publishers, Fayard who cleaned up with sales of over 86,000 copies in hardback.
Now Paris Match is under fire again for having taken Photoshop to the expanding waistline of the President in a pic of him canoeing in on holiday recently in New Hampshire.
Rival newspapaer L'Express gleefully published the original retouched pic clearly showing Sarko's poignees d'amour spilling out of his swim trunks whilst canoeing, comparing it with with the doctored digital image used by Paris Match.
For decades, it has been an unspoken rule in France that the press had no business delving into the private lives of politicians - although everyone knew that President Chirac could not be contacted the night Lady Diana died because he was holed up with his mistress... or that Mitterand had a daughter, Mazarine from one of his mistresses Anne Pingeot, housed and protected and paid for by the State ... or that the elegant Giscard D'estaing had a string of enchanting paramours.
However Francois Fillon's government has good Press contacts - who will watch out for Monsieur Le President. Catherine Pégard the top political writer at the conservative weekly magazine Le Point, - who has enjoyed face to face access to Sarko for years has taken up a role as a "special adviser" at the Elysée. Fillon has also hired Myriam Lévy, a reporter for Le Figaro, as a "communications adviser". (During the Presidential campaign, Lévy steadily produced biting and bitchy coverage of Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal.)
However the French Press are facing huge declines in circulation and the stories surface or nearly do... reporters at the Lagardere's Journal du Dimanche, discovered errant sometime / on-off wife , Cécilia Sarkozy, hadn't bothered to vote inn the Presidential run-off on May 6. An article was prepared backed up with a pic of the public-vote roster - it never went to print.
Ex staff of left wing Liberation run blog Rue89.com, broke the story (Cécilia Sarkozy n'a pas voté... scoop censuré du JDD) about the article's nonpublication claiming Sarko's pal Lagardère had it spiked. Naturally Lagardère denies this , and editor, Jacques Espérandieu, told Agence France Press that the story was killed because of a faiure of Mrs. Sarkozy to speak to them.
Espérandieu did admit however that he had received calls from Sarkozy's entourage (ex-director of the presidential campaign, of Laurent Solly, ex-chef de Cabinet of the Minister of Interior Department, and of Franck Louvrier, a PR helper ) arguing that publication would violate the family's privacy.
Then .."Espérandieu résiste à ces pressions. Jusqu'au coup de téléphone d'Arnaud Lagardère, patron du groupe, qui exige que l'article soit remisé dans un tiroir.