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French First Lady In Hospital, Following Reports Of Hollande Affair

French president François Hollande and his companion Valerie Trierweiler.
Jacques Brinon
French president François Hollande and his companion Valerie Trierweiler.

The French first lady Valerie Trierweiler has been admitted to a hospital in Paris in need of "rest," her spokesman tells Reuters.

This comes just after a French tabloid published photographs that it alleges reveal that her boyfriend, French President François Hollande, was having an affair with actress Julie Gayet.

Reuters adds:

"'She has been in hospital since Friday. She will leave tomorrow,' her spokesman Patrice Biancone told Reuters. ...

"Asked about the future of Trierweiler's relationship with the president, Biancone said: 'She needs rest. Then she will decide what to do.'"

While the tabloid aspect of this is, of course, juicy. Perhaps most interesting is the point that Agnès Poirier, makes today in The Observer, which is that this is a "very British scandal about a very French affair."

Essentially, she writes, in years past this affair would have never been an issue.

"I belong to the generation that grew up under Mitterrand: a time when nobody would have dared to publish images showing the president going to a rendezvous and leaving the morning after," Poirier writes. "Well, let me rephrase: nobody would have dreamed of spending a whole night hiding outside a building to take such pictures."

She goes on:

"Twenty years ago, a French president could carry on any extramarital activity in the knowledge that privacy laws and a respectful press would keep his secret. Editors and politicians colluded to ensure the public would never know. Love lives were strictly off limits to the media. The pinnacle of this self-censorship came in 1994, when Paris Match magazine obtained photos of Mazarine Pingeot, then aged 20, illegitimate daughter of President François Mitterrand and his lover Anne Pingeot. In a move that still astonishes the British media, Paris Match had sought Mitterrand's approval before publishing the pictures.

"Today, France's privacy laws remain as draconian as ever, but the celebrity press, battling with the internet and social media, has become much less respectful. The reason is largely financial: fines for breaking the privacy laws are paltry, and soon offset by boosted sales."

Meanwhile, Hollande, who's approval rating has plummeted, received a lot of support over the scandal. The Guardian reports that even his rival Marine Le Pen came out in his defense.

"Everyone has the right to have their private life respected," she said on Friday. "As long as it doesn't cost the taxpayer a centime."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.