In case anyone thought American politicians were the world’s most susceptible to becoming embroiled in political scandals, France seems determined to prove that its country’s highest office can be plagued by a controversy equal to its U.S. counterparts.

In response to reports that he is having an affair with French movie star Julie Gayet (My Best Friend, Chaos and Desire, Select Hotel), French president Francois Hollande admitted Tuesday he is going through “painful moments” in his personal life.

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A deluge of rumors popped up around Hollande and Gayet, 42,  in recent weeks, which he addressed obliquely during a State of the Union press conference on January 14.

Although he insisted that “private matters are dealt with in private,” Hollande declined to confirm whether or not his partner of six years, Valerie Trierweiler, 48, still should be called France’s First Lady.

Hollande’s disclosure comes in the wake of Trierweiler’s hospitalization, which occurred Friday after French publication Closer published photos that it said evidenced his affair with Gayet. When reporters asked after her health during a press conference Tuesday, Hollande said she was suffering from a “sever case of the blues,” but otherwise offered no specifics about her condition or diagnosis.

The media is having a field day lobbing accusations at the embattled politician. The Daily Beast, for example, claimed that it had information linking Hollande and Gayet’s “love nest” to Corsican organized crime. While the UK publication The Express reports that Gayet was hired as a member of the Villa Medici jury, which helps the government decide which artists receive grants, The Standard disputes that news, saying that the appointment was blocked after the scandal broke. The U.K.’s Daily Main has published topless photos of Gayet along with screengrabs from sex scenes in her movies.

Meanwhile, Australia’s speculates “How Does Francois Hollande Pull these women,” chronicling what it considers to be a pattern of behavior with strong, independent women, and diagnosing his seduction tactics (“It is the Woody Allen method: he makes them laugh and he listens to them”). And in light of Hollande’s announcement he will release a statement about the affair prior to February 11, when he and his wife are scheduled to appear at the White House for a visit with the Obamas, The Mirror boils down the news to him finally choosing “which First Lady will accompany him.”

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Ironically, much of the controversy surrounding Hollande has more to do with the media’s coverage of his alleged misbehavior that the affair itself. France maintains a strict policy about protecting the privacy of politicians’ personal affairs, which publication – much less investigation — of information about Hollande and Trierweiler, or Gayet, violates. That said, Hollande first attracted attention to his private life in 2007 when a French website published details about his then-burgeoning relationship with Trierweiler.

Other than his passing discussion of the scandal, Hollande focused primarily on his economic policies during the two-and-a-half-hour press conference. But it remains to be seen whether he can train France’s attention on his policies rather than this explosion of speculation about his private life.

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SOURCE: The Independent