Hi there. This is François Fillon. He's the Republican candidate in France's presidential election, one of roughly a million — or, you know, five main — candidates.
In November 2016, Fillon won the right-wing/center primary with 67% of the vote, defeating Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux and also a former prime minister.
Everything was looking good for Fillon at that point. He was ahead in the polls, and was predicted to comfortably defeat Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, in the final round of voting.
But then on Jan. 26, 2017: PLOT TWIST. The newspaper Le Canard enchaîné revealed that Penelope Fillon, his Welsh-born wife, had been paid as his parliamentary assistant...despite having never worked at the National Assembly, France's version of Congress.
Now, you might not be aware, but this is something of a French speciality, on a level with good cheese and the Eiffel Tower. We call it emploi fictif, or fictional employment.
Jacques Chirac — you know, our former president? He was convicted in an emploi fictif scandal.
Oh, and Le Pen, the far-right candidate everyone thinks is a shoo-in for the second round, is mired in an emploi fictif scandal of her own.
ANYWAY. The night the story broke, Fillon appeared on TV. He said yes, his wife had worked for him. His kids had, too. But it was all perfectly legal.
He then uttered the immortal phrase: "There's only one thing that would prevent me from being a candidate, and that's...if I were charged."
The next day, Marianne published the two columns that Penelope Fillon had penned for La Revue des deux Mondes...for which she'd been paid 100,000 euros.
Over the following days, evidence mounted. A number of media outlets covered the revelations. Fillon was starting to feel the heat.
On Feb. 2, Envoyé spécial broadcast an old interview with Penelope Fillon in which she claimed she had "never been her husband's assistant." Hmmmm...
Small point to consider: French presidents enjoy legal immunity.
So if Fillon becomes president, no one will be able to convict him of anything.