France's Hollande admits he has problems in private life

France's Hollande admits he has problems in private life

French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday he is going through “painful moments” in his personal life after a magazine report that he is having a secret affair with an actress.

Hollande’s partner, journalist Valerie Trierweiler, has been hospitalised since Friday, when “Closer” published photos it said proved Hollande’s liaison with Julie Gayet. The report has put new pressure on the already unpopular Hollande, who also has four children with Segolene Royal, who failed to challenge Sarkozy in the 2007 election.

He was asked at a major public appearance on Tuesday whether Trierweiler remains the First Lady. In his first comments since the magazine report, Hollande responded: “Everyone in his or her personal life can go through ordeals, that’s the case with us.”

The revelations beg the question whether a complex personal life can be private for someone with round-the-clock bodyguards, and about the role of “First Lady” in France. Trierweiler is the first person to hold the post without being married to the president.

Hollande said he would clarify who the First Lady is before he takes a presidential trip to the United States on February 11, but he wouldn’t comment further.

The photos in “Closer” included one of a man said to be Hollande being taken by motorcycle to an apartment where Gayet waited.

Twenty years ago, the same photographer, Sebastien Valiela, rocked France’s political establishment with images that revealed the secret family of then-President Francois Mitterrand, showing the Socialist leader emerging from a restaurant with the daughter he had never acknowledged.

The issue even reached the Parliament on Tuesday. A leading legislator from the opposition conservative UMP accused Hollande of taking unreasonable risks with security.

“The president is not a normal citizen during his term. He is the chief of our armies. He is the keystone of our institutions. His protection should not suffer from any amateurism,” Jacob said in the National Assembly. “The president should be aware of the level of responsibility that he exercises, be aware that his role is greater than his person, and be aware that he incarnates the image of France in the eyes of the world.”

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault tried to defend his boss, insisting that Hollande “has only one concern ... the future of France, the return to growth, the fight for jobs” and that the debate about his private life “isn’t worthy of a great democracy.”

Photographer Valiela said he was surprised at the lack of security for Hollande, whose government has been repeatedly threatened by al-Qaeda.

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