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Fillon pledges to 'stand tall' in fraud scandal open letter

Philippe Wojazer/AFP/Getty Images

French right-wing presidential candidate François Fillon said he was “stunned” by the recent embezzlement allegations, but vowed to continue campaigning, in an open letter published Wednesday by French daily Ouest-France.

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Fillon decided “to address the French people directly” in the form of an open letter, so as to “tell them my truth”. This regarding the allegations that his wife, British-born Penelope Fillon, was paid thousands of euros for a “fake job” as his parliamentary assistant.

The former prime minister condemned the media’s coverage of the affair, now known as Penelopegate, as “violent”.

“It’s true, for a few days, I was taken aback by the violence with which I was being attacked,” he wrote.

“However I will not be intimidated, and I will not buckle under pressure,” he added.

‘I have nothing to hide’

In his letter, Fillon defends himself by pointing out that members of parliament can legally employ family members in France. He goes on to say that the work his wife did was indeed “real work” that corresponded fairly to her salary.

“Everything was legal,” he writes. “My wife’s income was declared and taxed.”

“I want to lay everything out on the table,” he adds. “In 32 years of politics, I have never been charged or convicted by the courts.”

“Nothing will shake my will,” he concludes in his letter.

New campaign strategy

Fillon’s letter was published two days after giving a press conference to which nearly 2 million French people tuned in.

The recent decisions to speak directly to the population reflects a new campaign strategy for Fillon, who is now responding more quickly-and more aggressively-to new allegations as they arise.

The first week after the allegations were originally reported by French satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné, Fillon was relatively restrained in his response. But the presidential candidate is now making the rounds on the media circuit to more actively combat the accusations being brought against his wife.

However, the day before his letter was published, Le Canard enchaîné, brought forth new allegations that his wife had received roughly 45,000 euros in severance pay from the National Assembly.
 

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