1. French President Francois Hollande is under fire over his alleged affair with actress Juliet Gayet. But he was reluctant to talk about it at his annual press conference.
Last Friday French magazine Closer published allegations that President Hollande was having an affair with the actress Julie Gayet. Since then, although Closer took down the story, Hollande’s official partner Valerie Trierweiler has been admitted to hospital, the President has failed to deny the affair, Gayet has gone to ground and there have been suggestions of mafia connections to the apartment where the alleged tryst occurred.
Awkwardly for Hollande he had his annual press conference booked for today, just four days later. Luckily for Hollande, French journalists were happy to accept his refusal to discuss the issue.
2. The press conference kicked off at the Elysee at 4.37pm local time. Hollande starting speaking.
3. …and spoke….
“The Franco German ministerial council” was mentioned.
4. …and spoke some more.
Eventually, at 5.16pm local time — following a rambling half hour speech — the President said he was willing to take some questions.
5. This reporter was first up. And finally asked about the biggest question in France.
After wishing the President a happy new year, he brought up “an article concerning you” in the magazine Closer that “brought about a lot of emotion”.
There is “a need of clarification towards the French nation… you will be in the United States in a few weeks meeting the Presidential couple. Mr President I ask you this question, in a straight manner, is Valérie Trierweiler still the first lady of France?”
6. Hollande stonewalled him. And ducked the question.
“I understand your question. And I am sure you will understand my answer. Everyone in his private life can go through difficult periods. These are difficult moments. But I have one principle — private matters should be dealt with privately.”
“This is not the place, not the time to do it. But if I do not answer any question today on this matter I will do before the day that you suggested.”
The reporter was not allowed a follow-up question.
7. A second journalist declined to continue with that line of questioning and instead asked whether the president would consider himself to be a social democrat.
8. A third journalist asked him whether he had wasted time for the first 18 months of his presidency.
9. And a fourth journalist talked about the economy.
10. Eventually — and unusually for a country with a tradition of deference towards politicians’ private lives — French journalists returned to the topic. Hollande said he still wished he could sue the magazine.
“I don’t ask for any chance in the law. I against laws that are made for personal reasons. There are laws that protect the violation of private lives.”
“This is a question of principle - it is sure that as a citizen everything pushes me to sue this publication. I am really indignant that this is not only a personal question. In fact, it is a violation that can affect a fundamental freedom that can affect all of you.”
“We are in a country of great liberty but we must also have a principle of respect to private life and dignity of other people.”