At the launch of the site, Anne Sinclair, who was a well-known journalist in France before gaining worldwide celebrity as Strauss-Kahn’s grimly loyal partner, said: “I do not mix private and professional life.”
Eyebrows were raised when US millionaire socialite and liberal blogger Arianna Huffington chose Sinclair to head the French version of her site, after her starring role in last year’s most sensational political scandal.
Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign from the International Monetary Fund in May last year after he was charged with sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid. Charges were later dropped, but he remains dogged by scandal.
Sinclair, a former television anchor and the multi-millionaire heiress to an art fortune, stood by her husband throughout — funding his exorbitant defence costs — and is now making her own return to public life.
Speaking with Huffington at a packed Paris news conference, she said that neither her relationship with her husband — who admits living a free sexual life — nor her support for his Socialist Party would influence her work.
“It’s very clear. I said it to all my team. They have known this since the first day. It’s the first thing that I said to them. All important news will be treated normally, as it would be treated elsewhere,” she said.
“Anything that should be on the front page will be on the front page,” she insisted when pressed, before emphasising: “Today my husband has no public role. That has not passed you by.”
On Monday, Le Huffington Post’s inaugural front page splash hailed Sunday’s launch of Socialist candidate Francois Hollande’s presidential campaign as a “successful lift-off.”
Hollande is President Nicolas Sarkozy’s main challenger, three months ahead of a tight French presidential election, and Sinclair’s site is expected to lean left, despite employing both left and right-wing pundits.
The first edition carried no news about Strauss-Kahn, who is enjoying a rare period away from the front pages but may soon be forced to testify to a judicial investigation into an alleged French prostitution ring.
Reader comments under Sinclair’s first leading article appeared to have been carefully moderated, with dozens of congratulatory messages, little criticism and no insults nor direct references to her husband.
Huffington said Anne Sinclair “was at the top of my list” to edit the French site, and added: “It is really with great gratitude to this amazing team that we launch Le Huffington Post today.”
The site’s layout is closely modelled on its US parent, with the same design and logo but with a distinctly French flavour to its mix of opinion columns, aggregated news content and interactive news features.
Already dubbed “Le HuffPo,” it is a partnership between leading French daily Le Monde, the US parent firm and banker Matthieu Pigasse. It replaces a former French interactive news website, Le Post, owned by Le Monde.
Huffington launched her original American website in 2005 and sold it to Internet giant AOL in 2011 for $315 million (246 million euros). It boasts 37 million readers per month in the United States.
The size of the buyout surprised many observers, as the HuffPo’s gossipy mix of celebrity, political and lifestyle stories were largely links to other outlets, fleshed out with unpaid columnists.
It has become a major advertising platform, however, and now has British and Canadian editions. The British version has not been a hit, however, and it remains to be seen whether the formula will catch on in France.