Sarkozy's clash at farm show an Internet hit
Footage of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's sharp exchange with a man who refused to shake his hand at an agriculture show collected hundreds of thousands of hits
PARIS, Feb 25, 2008 - Footage of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's
sharp exchange with a man who refused to shake his hand at an agriculture show
collected hundreds of thousands of hits on the Internet on Sunday.
Sarkozy was filmed smiling and shaking hands with visitors as he arrived on
Saturday for the opening of the agriculture fair, dubbed the "world's biggest
farm" drawing some 600,000 people to celebrate French farming.
As he moved through the crowd, Sarkozy drew near the man, who told him, "Oh
no, don't touch me." The president, who kept smiling, responded: "Get lost,
"You disgust me," the man said.
"Get lost, you stupid bastard," Sarkozy responded.
The encounter posted on the website of the French daily Le Parisien
(www.leparisien.fr) had received some 330,000 hits by midday Sunday and was
also featured on the popular YouTube and Dailymotion sites.
Sarkozy's office refused to comment on the incident.
It was Sarkozy's first visit to the annual farm show since his election to
the presidency in May last year and comes at a time when he is struggling with
a steep drop in his approval ratings.
Sarkozy's predecessor Jacques Chirac was a popular guest at the fair,
spending up to six hours touring stalls, stroking cows, tasting culinary
delights and chatting with farmers from Europe's agricultural powerhouse.
In fact, he plans to visit again as a private citizen on Tuesday to
underscore the importance of environmentally-friendly agriculture and African
farming, according to a statement from his private foundation.
Sarkozy spent two hours at the fair on Saturday, pledging in an address to
lead talks on a new European agricultural policy and defend farmers in
negotiations with the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
He then ate some ham, drank a glass of milk and chomped on an apple before
returning to the Elysee.
The leader of the opposition Socialists, Francois Hollande, said Sarkozy's
verbal exchange with the visitor showed he was failing as president to show
"What is unbearable is that the president is not exemplary," Hollande said
in a television interview. He "cannot behave like any ordinary citizen. He is
the president of the republic."
Sarkozy's popularity has dropped to an all-time low of 38 percent, a tumble
that pollsters attribute to disappointment among voters who feel the president
has failed to deliver on his promises to boost growth and incomes.
It wasn't the first tiff Sarkozy has been involved in at a public
appearance. In November, a man yelled at him from a balcony in northwestern
France and Sarkozy asked him to come down.
"If I come down, I'm giving you a headbutt," the 21-year-old said. He was
eventually arrested, but was subsequently invited to be part of a delegation
of fishermen who visited the presidential palace in January.