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French president brushes aside questions over affair

It was arguably the most important speech of François Hollande's presidency. His job approval remains at nearly the lowest level of any president in French history. His economic policies have failed to make major inroads in addressing chronic unemployment and persistent deficits. His Socialist Party is restive.

Then there was that other matter weighing on him: the revelation last week of his affair with actor Julie Gayet and the drama of France's brokenhearted first lady checking herself into a hospital, "in shock," according to her staff.

So after a long prelude in which he delivered a sober and detailed analysis of France's challenges and his proposals for addressing them, the questioning began at the Elysee Palace in Paris, and the first was on the affair and where it left his companion and official consort, Valerie Trierweiler.

"Everyone in his private life can go through difficult periods; these are difficult moments," Hollande responded. "But I have one principle: Private matters should be dealt with privately."

However, just seconds later it seemed obvious that much in his personal life had yet to be resolved. When the journalist who had asked the first question, Alain Barluet, the head of the Presidential Press Association, asked whether Trierweiler was still the first lady, Hollande was noncommittal. He said he would make clear who the first lady is before he leaves on a trip to Washington in a few weeks.

His responses will likely satisfy the French, said Pierre Haski, the top editor at Rue89, an online publication. "There was a kind of sincerity in his first statement," said Haski, adding: "Obviously anyone can be in his shoes and would be so embarrassed to have the dirty laundry of a couple in public. I don't think this will be analyzed as anything against him, to be honest."

French president brushes aside questions over affair 01/14/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 12:42am]
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