French culture minister in new scandal after 'boy sex' row
French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was back in the spotlight Saturday for standing as character reference for two rapists after a row over his admission of paying "boys" for sex.Bordeaux - French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was back in the spotlight Saturday for standing as character reference for two rapists after a row over his admission of paying "boys" for sex.
Mitterrand, an urbane television personality and a nephew of former Socialist president Francois Mitterrand, adopted a pugnacious tone and threatened legal action over what he said was a "new orchestrated campaign of insensitive calumny."
Mitterrand told a news conference in Bordeaux, southwestern France, that he "will launch legal action against those who are complicit in the latest ignominy."
Earlier in the day, Mitterrand -- who was in Bordeaux for the opening of an art exhibition -- was jostled by about 30 far-right supporters who screamed "Hands off our children," and "Mitterrand resign."
Marine Le Pen, the vice-president of the far-right National Front party, on Saturday lambasted Mitterrand for being a "false witness," and "trying to directly influence a judge," with his testimonial.
The latest scandal emerged just after Mitterrand seemed to have ridden out a furore over his 2005 autobiographical novel "La Mauvaise Vie" (The Bad Life) in which the hero describes paying Asian boys for sex.
Mitterrand had angrily denied having ever engaged in paedophile acts or condoning sex tourism.
"I absolutely condemn sexual tourism (and) I condemn paedophilia in which I have never in any way participated, and all the people who accuse me of that type of thing should be ashamed," the 62-year-old told TF1 television.
The latest controversy emerged after a French newspaper said Mitterrand had testified to the "good character" of two youths in the French overseas territory of La Reunion charged with the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl.
The minister on Saturday said he was godfather to one of the youths, whose mother is a former make-up artist, and underlined that his letter was a "gesture of compassion and generosity" to a "modest" family in "great distress."
He underlined that he had met his godson "three times in (my) life."
"Is it not a shame that this letter has found its way in all the Internet networks?" he said, calling it an "ignominy," a "shame," and "manipulation."
He expressed his "disgust and indignation in the face of these repeated and systematic attempts which verge on a manhunt," and added that he had "very strongly" denounced the rape and had never professed "any apology or understanding" of the act.
Le Quotidien de la Reunion newspaper on Friday published a letter that Mitterrand, who was then director of the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, had written to the court in March.
The two youths and an accomplice were charged with rape and sentenced to between eight and 15 years in prison.
Said Larifou, one of the lawyers for the boys' families, told AFP he was filing a suit against the leaking of the letter, saying it "should never have appeared in the public domain."
The controversy over Mitterrand's book erupted this week after his staunch defence of fugitive film-maker Roman Polanski, arrested in Switzerland on a US warrant on child sex charges.