François Hollande’s new horror: President threatens to sue magazine for claiming he is having affair with actress Julie Gayet

Magazine says bodyguard even brings them croissants

Paris

If Closer magazine is to be believed, François Hollande has finally become the “normal” President he said he’d be in his election campaign.

Mr Hollande said he was considering taking legal action after the French version of the magazine published seven pages yesterday alleging he was having an affair with Julie Gayet, a 41-year-old actress.

The Elysée Palace did not specifically deny the allegations but said that Mr Hollande might sue the magazine for breaching France’s strict laws on privacy.

Despite seven pages of pictures, Closer produced no absolute proof that a man in a black motorcycle helmet seen entering Ms Gayet’s apartment block on New Year’s Day, and photographed again leaving by scooter the next morning, was Mr Hollande.

The magazine said the President could be recognised from “his shoes”. It also claimed that a second man seen arriving and leaving with the visitor was an Elysée security officer. The second man is seen arriving in the morning with what Closer claims is a “bag of croissants”.

If the story is true – and the consensus among France’s mainstream media yesterday was to accept Closer’s version of events – Mr Hollande is following a long tradition.

His mentor, the late Socialist President François Mitterrand, had an official mistress and several girlfriends during his 14 years in office. President Jacques Chirac’s frequent philandering was acknowledged by his wife Bernadette in her autobiography in 2002. In another book, Mr Chirac’s chauffeur revealed that his boss’s nickname was “four minutes, shower included”.

What was different about yesterday’s story was that it was published a few days after the alleged event in a more-or-less mainstream magazine. Despite the strict French privacy laws, glossy magazines frequently carry tittle-tattle on French actors and television personalities. Senior politicians have traditionally been off-limits.

There has been a gradual erosion of these barriers in recent years as the mainstream media finds itself having to react to information – accurate or otherwise – posted on the internet. Yesterday’s invasion of presidential “privacy” by Closer marked a new stage in the “Anglo-Saxonistion” of the French media.

The Elysée said: “François Hollande greatly deplores the invasion of his privacy, to which he has a right as any other citizen does. He is study- ing what action, including legal action, to take following this publication.”

In a statement yesterday, Closer said that at the request of Ms Gayet’s lawyer it would remove all reference to the alleged relationship from its website, but there was no mention pulling the publication from newsstands.

Unconfirmed rumours of an affair between Mr Hollande, 59, and Ms Gayet have been circulating in Paris for months. The actress is currently appearing as a vampish diplomat in a comic film about the French foreign ministry, Quai d’Orsay. She is also dubbing into French the voice of Nicole Kidman in the Hollywood movie about Princess Grace of Monaco which is due to appear this Spring.

Mr Hollande, who has been president for 20 months, has never been married. He is in an unmarried relationship with the former journalist, Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who performs the duties of “Première Dame or First Lady". 

The President has four grown-up children from his previous common law marriage over two decades with another Socialist politician, Ségolène Royal.

Closer said that its “astonishing photographs… pose questions about the security of the President”.

“The Head of State is accompanied by a solitary bodyguard who protects the secrecy surrounding these encounters with an actress and even brings them croissants.”

Fears about the president’s safety are unlikely to top the list of public reactions to Closer’s story. Socialist politicians, speaking off the record yesterday, said that it could further damage the president’s popularity, already at the lowest level of any French leader for half a century.

“What angered people about (former President Nicolas) Sarkozy was that his presidency seemed to be all about him and his private life. With people suffering and his government struggling, Hollande can’t afford to be seen to be part of the bling-bling world of film actresses,” one Socialist parliamentarian said.

An adviser at the Elysée Palace told Le Figaro that the revelation might disrupt the important announcements which Mr Hollande is expected to make on new market-driven economic policies at a press conference next Tuesday.

“I don’t see how it can fail to have an impact on how the President’s comments are received. It’s the last thing we needed. That’s life,” the official said.

Reactions posted by readers on the Le Monde website ranged from anger against Mr Hollande to fury with the lèse-majesté of Closer magazine.

“Attila” wrote: “France is on the way to the same level of media debate on politics as in England, where the Murdoch gutter press makes and breaks elections.”

“Juliette” commented dryly: “Now Valerie T is in the same boat as everyone who voted for FH.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?