Sarkozy admits insulting member of public was error
Nicolas Sarkozy said in an interview Tuesday that he should have ignored a man who refused to shake his hand.
PARIS, Feb 26, 2008 - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in an
interview Tuesday that he should have ignored a man who refused to shake his
hand instead of telling him to "get lost" and calling him a "stupid bastard."
"It is difficult when you are the president not to respond to an insult,"
Sarkozy said in a question-and-answer session with readers of the popular Le
Parisien newspaper published Tuesday.
"I should have not responded to him," he said.
In the footage posted on several websites, Sarkozy is seen moving through
the crowd at the annual agriculture fair on Saturday when a man tells him:
"Oh no, don't touch me." The president, still smiling, responds: "Get lost,
"You disgust me," the man says.
"Get lost, you stupid bastard," Sarkozy fires back.
His outburst at the hugely popular farm show was caught on video and
collected hundreds of thousands of hits on the Internet, at a time when
Sarkozy is struggling with a steep drop in his approval ratings.
"It's not because you're the president that you become someone you can wipe
your feet with," commented Sarkozy of the incident.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier on
Monday defended Sarkozy, saying that it was the man from the crowd who had
acted rudely and that the president had merely responded in kind.
Fillon said he found it "totally abnormal that someone would refuse to
shake the hand of the president."
"Frankly I think we can all have this type of reaction when we feel
insulted, as was the case.
"The president of the republic is also a man. What counts is not the manner
in which we react but transparency," said Fillon.
Barnier, who was at Sarkozy's side during the sharp exchange, said Sarkozy
is "a spontaneous, direct man, quite modern in his behaviour. There is nothing
hypocritical about Nicolas Sarkozy. He responded man to man and we mustn't be
surprised about that."
Municipal elections next month are shaping up as a test of Sarkozy's
popularity with his rightwing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party
expected to fare badly against the opposition Socialists.
The latest poll released at the weekend showed Sarkozy's approval rating
plummeting to 38 percent, a drop of nine points in a month, and an all-time
low for the president on the popularity scale since his election in May last