In what could go down as the biggest understatement of 2014, French President Francois Hollande admitted Tuesday that he was experiencing “painful moments” in his private life.
As France’s “First Girlfriend” Valerie Trierweiler remains holed up in a Paris hospital recovering from “shock,” Hollande faced the media to talk about his plans to breathe life into Europe’s second-largest economy – and his unpopular administration.
As expected, the several hundred journalists packed into the Elysee Palace were far more interested in the president’s alleged nocturnal trysts with Julie Gayet, a 41-year-old actress known for her roles in TV shows and movies such as "First Kisses," "Chaos and Desire," and "The Art of Seduction."
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But Hollande wouldn’t play ball.
"Everyone in their personal life can face trials. That's our case. These are painful moments. But I have one principle, and that is that personal life should be treated privately, respecting each person's intimacy," Hollande told the much-anticipated news conference, in which he left open the possibility of suing the celebrity magazine that broke the story.
On the question about whether Trierweiler, 48, was still the country’s first lady – a legitimate question given the Paris Match journalist costs the state about $27,000 a month – Hollande had this to say: "This is neither the place nor the moment to (discuss) that. If I do not respond to any question on that topic today, I will do so before (the US visit).”
The Socialist leader is scheduled to travel to Washington on Feb. 11 – yep, three days before Valentine’s Day. But whose name will be on the card?
It could still be Trierweiler’s, according to the Telegraph, which reported Monday that she was “ready to forgive” Hollande for his affair with Gayet, so long as she gets a “clarification” about his intentions.
“She seems prepared to forgive (him), she doesn’t want to slam the door on a whim,” a 'close friend' told Le Parisien. Rival newspaper Le Figaro reported the friend was in fact Trierweiler.
The Parisien report said Trierweiler was taken to hospital as a “preventative measure” after Hollande told her of the affair on Thursday night – the day before Closer published photos showing a man in black — supposedly the president, although his face is covered by the visor of a motorcycle helmet —emerging from an apartment where he reportedly regularly overnights with Gayet.
“The scene took place in the Elysée without blows or shouting,” wrote Le Parisien journalist Frédéric Gerschel, who claims he briefly spoke to Trierweiler. “In a few words, the president acknowledged the existence of (his affair).
“He denied nothing – neither his moped escapades with a bodyguard in the middle of the night, nor the frequency of his secret rendezvous or the date the secret ‘love affair’ started several months ago.”
Understandably, Trierweiler didn’t take the news well.
It struck her “like a TGV (fast train) smashing into the buffers,” the report quoted a friend as saying.
But the Hollande camp has been less than sympathetic.
The Telegraph said some of the president’s advisors are angry at the leak about Trierweiler’s hospitalization. They’ve described it as “emotional blackmail,” suggesting they think the first lady was the leaker.
Maybe she won't be receiving those red roses after all.