French weekly magazines review

The French weeklies are dominated by revelations in the celebrity magazine Closer that President François Hollande is having an affair with French actress Julie Gayet.

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Le Nouvel Observateur claims it is more than just about the private life of the President. The scandal, according to the weekly, is all the more painful, because it sheds light on the personality of François Hollande, trapped by his ambiguities.

The left-leaning weekly also took a look at what the foreign press is saying about the affair. Spain’s El Pais jokes about “a normal president who has become too normal” while Italy’s La Stampa, which is used to the escapades of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, refers to Valerie Trieweiler as the ex-First Lady. But it’s the British press that ran the most biting comments. The Guardian says that in France, presidential affairs are the rule rather than the exception, due to a complacent press often inclined to observe a 'code of silence'. The Times finds it shocking that the man carrying France’s nuclear code rides around Paris on a scooter, accompanied by a single bodyguard, to go visit a mistress living in a rented flat. And The Economist believes the affair is not likely to help a very unpopular President regain authority and credibility.

“He has fallen into disrepute”, bellows L’Express. The right-wing magazine dug out details about the women in Hollande’s life, discussing his imprudence and questioning the relevance of a debate about his private life. For the magazine, while François Hollande appeals for a respect of his private life, the Gayet affair is no private matter, as it affects his image, his presidential responsibilities and raises questions about his security. According to L’Express, a new political chapter has opened in which an “excessively normal president” risks paying an “expensive sentimental bill”.

The battle against unemployment was supposed to be François Hollande’s sole preoccupation, writes the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné. But it underlines with a note of sarcasm that he spent a lot of time worrying about other problems. It argues that while the Closer pictures are his private matter, everyone has seen the confusion of his private and public life. Le Canard restates its editorial policy which defines information as everything that stops at the “edge” of the bedroom. The satirical weekly says it is not its line that has moved but the news.

Le Point agrees, arguing that journalism will no longer accept stopping at the bedroom door. According to the journal, by the speed at which things are going, our sensation-driven society will soon slip under the sheets to take snapshots. The all powerful of our democracies will be treated similarly and requested to pass through the media wringer, which is not necessarily a grinder.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

“Things are moving” is actually the title of Le Point’s cover page story this week. It runs a picture of a determined-looking Hollande as it to prove that he is ready to face this redefining moment for his Presidency.

That is not just happening to his private life but also to the economy, according to Le Point. The weekly commends the "responsibility pact" announced at Tuesday’s press conference in which President Hollande offered 30 billion euros in cuts to employer contributions to social benefits to boost job creation; pledged to review generous unemployment benefits, simplify regulations and to set up a new body to review the effectiveness of state spending. That, according to Le Point is “reformism unheard of.”

Marianne’s cover page story is also about President Hollande’s unfaithfulness. Not because of the affair with actress Julie Gayet, but his conversion from Socialist to Social Democrat. The left-leaning magazine shortlists what it claims are François H’s real dangerous liaisons: they include his conversion to the economic pragmatism of ex German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, his ties with Pierre Gattaz, the corporate union chief, and the Greens party, branded by Marianne as a “millstone round the President’s neck”.

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