Ex-First Lady accuses France's Hollande of anti-poor jibe

Thu Sep 4, 2014 2:32pm EDT
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By Brian Love

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande's image took a new knock on Thursday with publication of a tell-all book in which ex-partner Valerie Trierweiler accused the Socialist leader of dismissively describing the poor as "the toothless".

Hollande ended his seven-year relationship with Trierweiler after his affair with an actress was revealed in January. The 49-year-old journalist vowed at the time that, breaking with a French tradition of maintaining discretion over private lives in politics, she would not keep quiet.

The 320-page book is laced with unflattering references to Hollande as cold or callous. But the charge that he ridiculed the poor was the one that sparked most media debate given his efforts to portray himself as aware of the plight of the needy.

"He presented himself as a man who disliked the rich," Trierweiler, a journalist with glossy magazine Paris Match, wrote of Hollande's successful 2012 election campaign.

"In reality, the president doesn't like the poor. In private, this man - the left-winger - calls them 'the toothless' and is so pleased at how funny he is."

On the day of its publication, Trierweiler's book shot to the top of Amazon.fr's bestseller list. It was also the strongest launch in five years for a book at FNAC superstores, where it sold three times as many copies as the first French edition of "Fifty Shades of Grey".

Hollande's Elysee Palace has refused to comment on the book. But, in an unexpected turn, it was Segolene Royal, the mother of Hollande's four children and the woman he left for Trierweiler, who sprang to his defence.

"This is the opposite of what he stands for," Royal, herself a former presidential candidate who is now his energy minister, told RMC radio, calling the accusation "total nonsense".   Continued...

Valerie Trierweiler, former companion of French President Francois Hollande, arrives at the international airport in Mumbai January 27, 2014.  REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui