Supporters defend Sarkozy over farm show clash

26th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Nicolas Sarkozy's supporters lined up to defend him after he was caught on video swearing at a member of the public

   PARIS, February 26, 2008  - French President Nicolas Sarkozy's supporters
lined up to defend him Monday after he was caught on video swearing at a
member of the public who refused to shake his hand.
   Farm Minister Michel Barnier, who was at Sarkozy's side at the annual
French farm show Saturday when the incident was filmed, said the president had
reacted "man to man" to a "verbal aggression".
   "Someone verbally attacked the head of state... and the president of the
republic, who is a spontaneous, direct man, quite modern in his behaviour...
responded man to man," Barnier told Europe 1 radio.
   In video footage posted on the website of Le Parisien newspaper, Sarkozy is
seen moving through the crowd at the agriculture fair when a man shoots out:
"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.
   The secretary of state for relations with parliament, Roger Karoutchi, said
Sarkozy had displayed "truly exceptional calm and serenity" faced with a
deliberate provocation.
   "I am not sure I wouldn't have said worse, I even wonder if I might have
slapped him!" he told Radio Classique.
   "No one has the right to humiliate the president," Labour Minister Xavier
Bertrand told RMC radio.
   UMP deputy Lionnel Luca denounced a media "hunt" against Sarkozy, warning
that similar "hounding" had pushed former French ministers Roger Salengro and
Pierre Beregovoy to suicide, in 1936 and 1993 respectively.
   But Sarkozy's Socialist rival for the presidency, Segolene Royal, making
her own visit to the farm show on Monday, charged that the incident did "not
give a good image of the presidential function".
   "We need to keep our cool and sang froid," she said. "Sometimes it happens
that citizens do not want to shake your hand, that's all. I say, that is your
right," Royal added.
   And the deputy head of the far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, rounded
on Sarkozy's "impulsiveness".
   "This is not the first time Mr Sarkozy has had this kind of behavioural
problem... Is there any way we can take away the nuclear button from him?
Because this impulsiveness is getting a little bit worrying."
   Sarkozy was making his first visit to the farm show since his election to
the presidency in May last year, at a time when he is struggling with a steep
drop in his approval ratings.
   His predecessor Jacques Chirac was a popular guest at the fair, spending
hours touring stalls, stroking cows, and chatting with farmers from Europe's
agricultural powerhouse.


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