Sarkozy 'accused of manipulating his height'

Tall tale

A worker chosen to stand on the podium behind the French president at a visit to a Normandy factory last week has admitted in a Belgian TV report that she was chosen because her small stature wouldnot make the president look short. The report on the Belgian state channel RTBF said a group of specially selected workers of smaller stature had been bussed in to stand behind the president at the Faurecia auto parts company.

“I am told you have been chosen because of your size, is this true?” the Belgian journalist asked one woman worker on the podium. “Yes,” she replied. “You must not be bigger than the president?” the journalist continued. “That’s right,” the woman said.
The report, aired this weekend, has fast become a web hit in France, angering the Elysee, which dismissed the allegation as “absurd and grotesque”. The company that staged the event, Faurecia, dismissed the report as “rumours”.

A trade unionist at the factory told the French website LePost.fr: “Only people of small stature could pose beside the president. Those that were bigger than him could not.” A CFDT union leader at the factory later told the site Rue89 that the “order” for short workers had come directly from the Elysee.

Sarkozy is notoriously secretive about his exact height, which is estimated to be about 1.68 metres (5 ft 6 inches), allegedly shorter than Napoleon.

His rumoured obsession with his height and appearance has delighted satirists and cartoonists who goad the president by drawing him as a dwarf or standing on a chair.
Sarkozy wears shoes with sizeable heels and has cultivated a way of walking on the balls of his feet with a distinct bounce that makes him look taller. Sarkozy is often seen on tiptoes on official visits and at political events. Earlier this year, at his first official photograph in Strasbourg with the much taller Barack Obama and his wife, Michele, he was ridiculed by the press for suddenly pulling himself up on tiptoes. Later, at a speech on the anniversary of the Normandy landings, he stood on a box.

His third wife, the former supermodel Carla Bruni, like her equally tall predecessor Cecilia Sarkozy, mostly wears flat pumps when she appears next to her husband on state occasions, sparking yet more ridicule from critics.

The Socialist party on Tuesday seized on the row to lampoon Sarkozy for cynical image-management and duping the French public.

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