Nicolas Sarkozy in marriage rumour bugging claims
Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign to find out who started rumours alleging he and his wife were having affairs threatened to spiral into an affair of state, amid reports claiming that his former justice minister was bugged to see whether she instigated them.
Mr Sarkozy said last month he did not have “half a minute” to spare on “idiotic” rumours over the state of his marriage after they appeared on Twitter and the blog on the website of a respected weekly newspaper.
But just when the buzz over the rumour that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy had an affair with the musician Benjamin Biolay while her husband sought solace in the arms of Chantal Jouanno, his ecology minister, began to fade, the presidents’ aides launched a virulent counter-attack this week.
Pierre Charon, Mr Sarkozy’s chief communication adviser, promised to wage a campaign of terror against rumour-mongers, apparently pointing the finger at the president’s former justice minister, Rachida Dati, and suggesting there may be a concerted plot by foreign “financial” circles to discredit the president because he preaches regulating global capitalism. The name of Dominique de Villepin, Mr Sarkozy’s arch-rival, was also thrown into the mix by other Elysée sources.
Yesterday, sources were claiming that French domestic intelligence had bugged the phone calls of Miss Dati, a fallen cabinet star and now the mayor of Paris’ 7th arrondissement and an MEP, and surmised that she had either started or spread the rumours.
A government spokesman denied the bugging claims, but Mr Sarkozy’s chief adviser yesterday said the president “does not want to see Rachida Dati anymore”, apparently confirming he holds her at least in part responsible for the rumours.
Miss Dati reacted furiously on French radio, saying “there is a difference between the president’s entourage and the president himself and the president cannot back what Pierre Charon said.
Politicians from Right and Left rushed to Miss Dati’s defence suggesting the president’s inner circle of male allies, nicknamed “the firm” by his ex-wife Cecilia, had always had it in for France’s first senior Arab minister.
“She is the image of a new generation getting a foothold in politics. I get the feeling that they are trying to politically execute her,” Malek Boutih, president of SOS Racisme, told Libération. Christian Jacob, from Mr Sarkozy’s UMP party, said he was “put out by these completely crazy attacks”.
Commentators said Mr Sarkozy, whose popularity is at an all-time low and is facing dissent from within his own ranks, may have decided that stoking rumour conspiracy theories will help paint him as a victim and rally his troops. But the opposition said it merely reinforced the “Sarko soap opera” image of his “vaudeville” presidency.
“There is a climate of decomposition rarely witnessed in the French Republic,” said François Holland, the former Socialist party secretary. “How could we have stooped so low?”
“It is up to the president himself to put a stop to this.”