US media have always seemed to have an appetite for reporting certain news from France, so recent revelations that President Francois Hollande has been romantically linked with an actress was bound to make the news. What’s odd is how some US reporters want to suggest that the French care about this as much as they do.
On the CBS Evening News (1/14/14), anchor Scott Pelley explained that Hollande “sidestepped a simple question” about whether France’s “first lady” was Hollande’s girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler or actress Julie Gayet. What Hollande did was insist that his personal affairs should be private.
But correspondent Mark Whitaker says that’s not cutting it:
The saga has tested the French myth that interest in politicians stops at the bedroom door, says American living in Paris Danielle Grall.
CBS then shows Grall saying this: “The elite French, the educated French–it’s totally humiliating for them. The feel like they’re living in Italy! And it’s not very funny.”
Now, it’s quite odd to go to an American living in France for a sense of how the French feel about Hollande’s personal life. But perhaps that was because the French mostly don’t think it’s an issue; as Bloomberg (1/13/14) reported, “77 percent of French voters consider the affair a private matter.” In fact, one poll a actually shows Hollande’s popularity increasing slightly after this news broke.
At the close of the report, Whitaker says that Hollande
may have chosen to stonewall on his personal issues, preferring to deal with France’s economic ones. But there’s a connection, Scott. In order to get his economic plan, he has to appear politically strong. And with the drama in his personal life, he doesn’t.
As the CBS web headline puts it, “French Want Dithering President to Make Up His Mind.” But it seems that’s more of an issue for US media than for the French. Incidentally, Hollande’s press conference was primarily to sell austerity-like economic policies, like lowering corporate taxes and cutting government spending. Maybe the French are more interested in what he’s doing to their economy than in his romantic life–strange was that may seem to US reporters.