Short workers chosen to stand near Sarkozy

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Sarkozy, reputed to be touchy about his height, is mocked by his opponents after a petite factory worker told Belgian television she was picked to stand behind the French President because of her size.

Paris – France's opposition Socialists mocked President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday over reports his office asked factory managers to choose short employees to stand behind the diminutive leader during a speech.

The Elysee Palace firmly denied the claim from a union leader, as did the management of the Faurecia car parts plant, but a petite worker told Belgian television that she had been picked so as not to overshadow the president.

On 3 September last week, Sarkozy went to the Faurecia plant in Caligny in Normandy, northern France, in order to defend his economic stimulus policies to workers in an industrial sector badly hit by the global downturn.

After touring the plant, the reportedly 1.65 metre tall leader gave an address to a group of seated workers. Standing behind him was a small group of Faurecia staff, none of them markedly taller than him.

"The request, the order if you will, was given to Faurecia's management," union representative Jose de sa Moreira told the news website Rue89, adding the visit had been discussed in detail by officials, management and unions.

Moreira did not respond to calls from AFP to confirm details of the request.

As can be seen in a report by the Belgian network RTBF that has become an Internet sensation in France, a reporter approached one of the Faurecia workers who was chosen to serve in the backdrop to the speech.

"I am told you have been chosen because of your size, is this true?" the RTBF journalist asks the woman. "Yes," she replies. "You must not be bigger than the president?" the journalist asks. "That's right," says the woman.

The report has been widely shown by French websites – and the opposition Socialists have mocked Sarkozy's image management – but a spokesman for the French presidency called the charge "completely absurd and grotesque."

Benoit Hamon, spokesman for the Socialist party, leapt on the report to mock Sarkozy's handlers for the "complete stage management" of events, and to attack French television for not asking the same questions as its Belgian rival.

For their part, Faurecia's management released a statement Monday to "deny the rumours that the Elysee had made any 'special requests' as regards the staff present during the president's speech."

Sarkozy – who often wears stacked heels and has been photographed standing on a box behind a podium previously used by President Barack Obama – is reputed to be extremely touchy about his height.

AFP / Expatica

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