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France - Mitterrand controversy

Culture Minister under fire over sex tourism novel

Article published on the 2009-10-08 Latest update 2009-10-08 16:24 TU

Frédéric Mitterrand(Photo: Denis Rouvre)

Frédéric Mitterrand
(Photo: Denis Rouvre)

French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand is under increasing pressure over a book he wrote in which his hero indulges in Asian sex tourism. He is to reply to calls for his resignation on television on Thursday evening.

As calls for him to quit or be fired increase, Mitterrand is to try and answer the controversy on prime time televison news Thursday evening.

The controversy centres on his book, La Mauvaise Vie (The Bad Life), which is described by his publishers as an “autobiographical novel” and appeared four years ago.

On holiday in Thailand, Mitterrand's hero says that he has started "paying for boys" and describes evenings with “Adonis-like” men without specifically saying they were under age.

"Such a spectacle can only be considered abominable from a moral point of view," he writes. "But it pleases me beyond all reason."

Mitterrand, who is the nephew of former President François Mitterrand, is openly gay.

The far-right Front National (FN) launched a campaign to oust the minister on Monday, when its deputy leader Marine Le Pen brandished the book during a television talk show.

“He describes in detail the manner in which he conducts sexual tourism and the pleasure he has in paying little Thai boys while being aware of the perversity of this system,” she said, calling on Mitterrand to resign.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's special advisor Henri Guaino has said Mitterrand should not have to step down from a position he only took up in June.

"There are no facts, there is just a book," he said.

Sarkozy has yet to comment on the latest row but in an interview with the Nouvel Observateur magazine this summer he called the book "brave and talented".

But Labour Minister Xavier Darcos on Thursday called on Mitterrand to answer his critics and opposition politicians are demanding his resignation.

“No one is tackling Frédéric Mitterand on legal grounds, he is being reproached for his personal behaviour, his moral behaviour. He must answer that. I think he should respond otherwise just simply through indignation,” said Darcos.

Socialist Party spokesperson Benoit Hammon on Wednesday evening declared that it was “unjustifiable and unacceptable” for a minister to have engaged in sexual tourism.

"As a minister of culture he has drawn attention to himself by defending a film maker accused of raping a child and he has written a book where he said he took advantage of sexual tourism. To say the least, I find it shocking," Hamon told Reuters news agency.

The scandal blew up in the aftermath of the arrest last month of Polish film-maker Roman Polanski in Switzerland.

Mitterrand called on the US to drop extradition proceedings over Polanski’s alleged abuse of an underage girl over 30 years ago and that seems to have prompted the FN's attacks.

Marine le Pen at a Front National demonstration on Thursday(Photo: Jan van der Made)

Marine le Pen at a Front National demonstration on Thursday
(Photo: Jan van der Made)


 "He’s got to go," said Marine le Pen at a demonstration on Thursday. “And perhaps [Foreign Affairs Minister] Mr [Bernard] Kouchner and [North Korea envoy] Mr [Jack] Lang should also go with him. They also immediately defended Mr Polanski, which means that they haven’t turned the page on the worst years and the worst tendencies of 1968 when they signed petitions for the decriminilisation of sex with minors.”

The 62-year-old Mitterand has so far dismissed the attacks.

“If the National Front drags me through the mud then it is an honour for me,” he said. “If a left-wing politician drags me through the mud then it is a humiliation for him.”

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