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French president Francois Hollande has admitted he and first lady Valérie Trierweiler are going through a “painful and difficult” moment.
But Hollande, facing the media amid allegations her had an affair with actress Julie Gayet, said he would not discuss his private life in public.
Hollande was responding to a question about whether Trierweiler – who remains in hospital – was still France’s first lady.
He said everyone can go through difficult times in their private lives, but that such matters must be dealt with behind closed doors.
France doesn’t have an official “First Lady” title, but Hollande’s partner resides at and has her own office in the Elysée Palace and accompanies him on official visits.
Following the president’s alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet, questions are being raised about Trierweiler’s status.
Hollande has never married, but left former partner Segolène Royal, who is said to be close to Gayet, to be with his current partner.
A magazine article, published last week, showed a photo of a man said to be the president visiting a flat in Paris at the same time as Gayet.
Strict privacy laws hang over the French media. While Hollande has not denied the affair, he has protested at the invasion of his privacy.
Opinion polls suggest Hollande is one of the most unpopular presidents France has ever known; many French people are more concerned about his plans to boost their country’s economy and lower unemployment, than the details of his private life.
According to euronews’ correspondent in Paris, Giovanni Magi: “The scandal of the alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet has come at a time when François Hollande’s popularity was slowly starting to climb from a record low to where it was when he started. For the French president, this is undoubtedly the most difficult moment of the first 20 months of his mandate.”