French Kiss-Off: Female Politician Punished For Infidelity GossipS

Former French Justice Minister Rachida Dati may have been spreading nasty rumors about Nicholas Sarkozy's marriage to Carla Bruni. So Sarkozy took away her bodyguards, and her cell phone. Yes, France is apparently governed by eight-year-olds.

Speculation has been brewing that Bruni and Sarkozy are both having affairs, Bruni with musician Benjamin Biolay and Sarkozy with Ecology Minister and "karate champion" Chantal Jouanno. Bruni has denied the rumors, stating unconvincingly that Sarkozy "'would never have affairs … Have you ever seen a picture of him having an affair?'' However, she also said, "'I guess marriage should be for ever but who knows what happens?" And before her marriage to Sarkozy, she told an interviewer, "Monogamy bores me terribly." It wouldn't be too surprising if Sarkozy and Bruni were cheating on one another, given that Bruni has slept with her baby-daddy's dad, Sarkozy started "courting" his now-ex-wife Cecilia when he officiated at her marriage to someone else, and, as the Telegraph's Cassandra Jardine points out, this is France.

But that hasn't stopped Sarkozy — or possibly his friends — from punishing Dati. Now a member of the European Parliament, Dati supposedly spilled the beans on Bruni's and Sarkozy's dalliances, and now somebody has taken away all her privileges, including "her official car, chauffeur, bodyguards and smart phone." It could have been Sarkozy himself, in the past a political patron of Dati's (and maybe more — remember, this is France). Or, as Dati suspects, the order could have come from Sarkozy's friend Brice Hortefeux, an "enemy" of Dati's. Hortefeux apparently called Dati to apologize for the move, but she hung up on him, thus making the whole scandal sound even more like something from junior high.

Of course, these are real grown-ups with real power, whose careers in the past have involved more serious issues than who's sleeping with who. Dati became the first Muslim woman to hold a top ministerial position in France in 2007 — though born into poverty, she's been criticized for her love of fashion and called "Rachida Barbie" (sounds a bit like Desiree Rogers). She was also lambasted for returning to work just five days after giving birth to her child (whose father was the subject of another whole rumor mill), and when she was finally ousted from her job as Minister of Justice, Margaret wrote, "it remains unclear if she was actually not performing her job as well as she could, or if the decisions she made in her personal life as a prominent female politician made her an easy target for criticism."

The things that made her an "easy target for criticism" could make her a target for more serious things as well, and it seems irresponsible for Sarkozy (or his buddies) to remove her security detail at a time when she's facing high-profile accusations of gossip-mongering. Jardine claims that nobody in France really cares about infidelity rumors, but obviously Sarkozy cares — and if it's true that he's responsible for removing Dati's bodyguards, then he's sending a message that he values his image more highly than her safety. Presumably Dati will retain her own security, but as ludicrous as this episode is, it has a dark side: a powerful man supporting a woman only as long as she's useful to him, and then leaving her out in the cold.

Rachida Dati Blamed For Sarkozy Affairs Rumours [Telegraph]
Rachida Dati Stripped Of All Ministerial Perks 'After Spreading Rumours About Sarkozy Affairs' [Daily Mail]
'Monogamy Bores Me Terribly' [Telegraph]
Whispered Words Tell Of A Fairytale That Is Ending [Sydney Morning Herald]

Earlier: French Justice Minister's Maternity Leave Ignites Media Firestorm
Is French Minister Guilty Of Incompetence Or Governing While Female?