Beleaguered Hollande to reach out to nation on TV

Thu Mar 28, 2013 2:41pm EDT
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By Catherine Bremer

PARIS (Reuters) - With his approval ratings and most of his economic pledges in tatters, French President Francois Hollande will try to convince a disillusioned nation on television on Thursday to keep faith in him to restore the economy to health.

Hollande will be grilled in a 45-minute interview on France 2 television, his first such appearance in several months, in a studio whose backdrop and lighting have been prepared by his media team to create a somber mood.

The careful stage-managing risked being spoiled, however, by news hours before the interview that French actress Julie Gayet had filed a legal complaint for breach of privacy over rumors on the Internet alleging a liaison with the president.

The prosecutor's office told Reuters that Gayet, 40, filed a complaint against "persons unknown" on March 18 over the rumors, which have been circulating for some weeks.

A lawyer for Gayet did not respond to phone calls and Hollande's office declined to comment.

Ten months into his term, the Socialist is battling to keep the public behind him. He has irked left-wingers with pro-market measures to foster growth, angered business leaders with high taxes and failed to stem a rise in unemployment to 10.6 percent.

His ratings have slid faster than those of any other French president to as low as 22 percent as he has backtracked on growth and deficit targets. Few believe he can meet a promise to bring down the unemployment rate by the end of the year.

The TV interview is part of a public relations push, including a two-day, hand-shaking tour by Hollande in southeast France this month. The trip backfired when hecklers asked what had become of campaign pledges and one was carted off by police.   Continued...

France's President Francois Hollande (R) and his companion Valerie Trierweiler (C) attend the annual Representative Council of France's Jewish Associations (CRIF) dinner at the Pavillon d'Armenonville in Paris March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Joel Saget/Pool