Sarkozy's father tells of hardships in rare interview
President Nicolas Sarkozy's father describes his hardships as a penniless refugee in wartime France and pride in his son during a rare interview posted on a WebTV site.
PARIS - Pal Sarkozy, an 80-year-old painter who lives outside Paris, also said he hoped the global economic crisis would soon be over to allow his son to show his "true values" during less challenging times.
"He is an exceptional man," Sarkozy senior said in the interview to Omega.tv that was to be broadcast on a mainstream television channel Monday evening.
"He is a great politician, an extraordinary communicator, a man who can win over a hostile crowd... a very intelligent boy who is making good decisions for France and for Europe."
Born to an aristocratic family, Pal Sarkozy de Nagy-Bocsa fled Hungary during World War II and arrived penniless in France.
"I didn't have any shoes and I spent my first night sleeping outside, near a Paris metro entrance," he recounted.
Sarkozy's election to the presidency in 2007 was "a great moment," he said. "I arrived here as a refugee, I started out in the streets and he is Hungarian after all.
"This was an achievement in the Sarkozy's family success in France."
Noting that he too had lost money during the downturn, Sarkozy senior accused the media of fear-mongering and lamented that politicians were unable to be reassuring in such a climate.
"Nicolas inherited coffers that were almost empty," he said.
"He has been unlucky because the crisis erupted just a few months after he became president. He really didn't need this."
"I hope with all my heart that the crisis will be over as quickly as possible and that the last two years of this presidency will be much calmer so that we can appreciate his true values."
While the French leader has said that his father walked out on his mother when he was a young boy, Sarkozy senior denied that he had been estranged from his son.
"I had a divorce, I never abandoned my family," said Pal Sarkozy. "I took care of the children during school holidays, I saw them three times a week."
In an apparent jibe at his son, he added, "I have had several divorces just as my children also have had several divorces."
Sarkozy married supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni last year, his third marriage.
During the interview, Sarkozy senior showed a painting of Carla sitting on a piano, strumming her guitar, that he gave her as a wedding gift.
He also painted a large portrait of his son with a Legion of Honour medal hanging from his ear as a gift for his Elysee office.
Sarkozy's mother Andree and Pal Sarkozy had three sons: Guillaume, Nicolas and Francois. Pal had two other children from another marriage: Caroline and Olivier.