• France's news in English

Gayet affair boosts Hollande's billing in US

Joshua Melvin · 10 Feb 2014, 13:19

Published: 10 Feb 2014 13:19 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

As Hollande arrives for a three-day visit to the US, a review of the American press on Monday showed that while there was some interest in his stance on business and the environment, it was the recent escapades in his private life that were making most of the headlines.

The US media's coverage of the affair, including the New York Post's front page story, pictured above, has helped raise the French president's profile in the US, if not quite for the reasons he might have been hoping.

Many American media sites, seen by the CBS news headline below, have focused their coverage on Hollande's private life and the knock-on effects for his solo trip to the US.

Even respected outlets like the New York Times couldn’t pass up the chance to lead on the fallout from his alleged affair with Julie Gayet.

The Times broke the news this weekend the White House had to destroy some 300 invitations to a state dinner on the occasion of Hollande’s visit because they had been printed before he dumped former “first lady” Valérie Trierweiler.

The invites, with the presidential seal in gold, included Trierweiler's name and had been set to be mailed before the story of Hollande's antics hit the headlines in January.

Prior to his much-publicized affair many Americans could maybe at least recognize the names of former presidents Nicholas Sarkozy or François Mitterand but the New York Times' White House correspondent Peter Baker doubted many of his countrymen were familiar with the name Hollande.

“A couple weeks ago nobody knew who François Hollande was,” Baker said. “The American public only learned about him because of the affair.”

American News channel CNN pointed out Hollande is not the first French president to fly solo at an official visit to the US. Hollande's predecessor Sarkozy paid a visit to the US shortly after divorcing his wife.

And it’s not the first time breaking news has disrupted the careful choreography of a state dinner. When the NSA spying scandal broke Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled her trip altogether.

Hollande heads to US to boost French economy

However, a slew of messy questions have been the subject of much stress for the White House social staff in recent days. Normally the spouse of the guest leader would sit next to President Barack Obama. So who will get that place? Also, should there be any dancing if Hollande has no one to dance with?

These questions are not so much prurient but of an important nature. State dinners at the White House, as other halls of power, are dominated by a series of protocols and delicate politeness. America and France go back a long way and thus a slip up could offend a key partner.

Some media outlets couldn’t let interest in Hollande’s private troubles pass by, but at least tried to inject some serious policy analysis into it. The New Yorker argued that the president’s alleged affair being outed by a new story was typical if his indecisive term in office.

“Many French now claim to see a pattern in Hollande’s behavior reflective of a general weakness in his Presidency. “He never decides anything. He lets events or other people decide for him,” one friend explained to me,” columnist Alexander Stille wrote. 

The Wall Street Journal also concentrated on the political importance of Hollande's visit. "The Wall Street Journal "doubts" Hollande's pro-business politics...and is interested in Trierweiler," tweeted Eric Hacquemand, a journalist at Le Parisien.

Story continues below…

And Hollande's affair has also been the talk of the "twittersphere" in the build up to the visit.

"Hollande is famous in Washington since the Gayet affair. With the DSK affair, the French must have a heck of a reputation," said one French tweeter.

Others were more mocking:

"The white House has settled on a new protocol: a big orgy," said one Tweeter.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available