Frédéric Mitterrand, France's new culture minister and a vocal defender of Roman Polanski, is in danger of losing his job after right-wing politicians discovered references to "paying for boys" in his autobiography.
The "discovery" is weird for a lot of reasons. For starters, the autobiography (called, aptly, The Bad Life) was published in 2005, and was apparently a bestseller, so lots of people probably knew about Mitterrand's predilections before now. These predilections do sound disturbing — according to the Telegraph's John Lichfield, the autobiography "justified sex tourism" and chronicled Mitterrand's visits to brothels in Thailand and Indonesia. Mitterrand wrote,
I got into the habit of paying for boys. All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excited me enormously... the abundance of very attractive and immediately available young boys put me in a state of desire.
His mention of "the slave market" seems like enough to call into question his fitness as a minister of culture. However, it is worth noting that the "boys" he "paid for" were "implicitly under-age," but his autobiography doesn't seem to include their actual ages. He now claims that his use of the word "boys" and "youths" were figurative, and that gay men call all men "boys." And when the book was published, he called the book "half real and half dreamed," so his descriptions of brothels fall short of an outright confession.
Still, it's kind of surprising that Sarkozy didn't do a basic check for, say, endorsements of sex slavery before he backed Mitterrand, the nephew of former French President François Mitterrand. Instead, he left Mitterrand's extracurricular activities to be discovered by the French far right, who were angry about Mitterrand's defense of Roman Polanski. Mitterrand said of the director, "To see him like that, thrown to the lions because of ancient history, really doesn't make any sense." He added, "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."
Mitterrand's criticism of America rings a little false, given that his defense of Polanski may have had less to do with moral outrage than it did with his own sexual practices. And his admissions seem like they may be grounds for dismissal (though really, they were grounds for not appointing him in the first place). But the manner in which they were "unearthed" (Lichfield's questionable term) raises a question about Polanski apologists in general: should they be subject to extra scrutiny because of their support of a rapist? Politico's Kenneth Vogel offers another example of this practice: he has totaled up all the contributions Polanski supporters made to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Vogel writes,
Movie industry types calling for the release of director Roman Polanski last year gave $34,000 to Obama's presidential campaign and the Democratic Party, FEC records show.
Of course, these donors (Harvey Weinstein is one) gave money long before the Polanski issue came back into the public eye, and it almost certainly wasn't among their top campaign priorities at the time. It's very unlikely that any of them donated to Obama so that he would pardon Polanski. Should we consider their money tainted? What about donations they might give in the future? Does support for Polanski negate all other political views? Mitterrand may have shown himself to be a poor representative of France long before his Polanski comments, but how should we feel towards people whose non-Polanski views still agree with our own?
Mitterrand Fights For His Job After Rent Boy Admission [Telegraph]
Roman Polanski Backers Gave $34K To Barack Obama, DNC [Politico]
France Rushes To Polanski's Defense [AP]
Polanski, Mitterrand, Minor Sex And Relativism [Sky News]