Sarkozy says son 'thrown to the wolves' in nepotism row
Nicolas Sarkozy said on Tuesday his son had been "thrown to the wolves" as a row escalated over the 23-year-old's imminent appointment to manage France's top business district.
Asked to comment on the political and media storm swirling around Jean Sarkozy, the president replied: "It is never right for someone to be thrown to the wolves without reason and in an excessive manner."
"You run after controversies, sometimes even ahead of them," he told reporters. "I have to follow through on reforms and solve problems."
News that law student Jean Sarkozy is in line to be named chairman of the agency overseeing development in La Defense, the latest boost in a meteoric career, has drawn howls of protest and derision.
By Tuesday more than 40,000 people had signed an online petition urging the president's son, mockingly dubbed "Prince Jean," to pull out of the running.
The main opposition Socialist Party has formally urged the president "to abandon this disastrous project that has already made France a laughing stock among democracies."
But Sarkozy's allies deployed their heavy artillery on Tuesday in support of Jean, with former minister Charles Pasqua vaunting his "maturity" and the government spokesman insisting on his "right" to pursue a career of his own.
Sarkozy junior was just as defiant.
"Should I be illegitimate in any election just because my name is Sarkozy?" he demanded in an interview with the daily Metro.
"I don't ask for any more rights than anyone else, but I don't ask for fewer either."
The latest row comes days after a scandal threatened to engulf Sarkozy's culture minister, Frederic Mitterrand, who was forced to defend himself on prime-time television over a 2005 book describing his past as a sex tourist.