WTF Is Going on in France? A Presidential Love Triangle, Explained

If Olivia Pope were real (anywhere other than in our hearts), she'd be hopping on a Gulfstream and charting a course for France right now, because President Francois Hollande is currently dealing with a sex scandal that would make JFK blush like an anime schoolgirl.

Remember this the next time someone tries to convince you that the French have sophisticated non-monogamy on lock. All this, from a dude who campaigned as "Monsieur Normal"!

On January 10, French celebrity magazine Closer published photos of Hollande, allegedly being delivered to a borrowed apartment—on the back of a scooter driven by a bodyguard, good grief—where he met actress Julie Gayet and stayed overnight. Making matters even more embarrassing: His dorky-ass helmet.

Here, let the animators at NME explain:

Nor has Hollande exactly denied any of this, though Julie Gayet is reportedly planning to file suit against the tab for "invasion of privacy," the Telegraph says.

His longtime girlfriend, Valerie Trierweiler, promptly checked herself into the hospital, the Daily Mail reports. A friend told a French newspaper, "She seems ready to forgive, but she wants to know quickly what Francois Hollande's intentions are." Meanwhile "critics" are apparently accusing her of "emotional blackmail," because I guess it's hard for some people to understand why this might be difficult.

But of course, it's not just a private matter. It's also a matter of who the hell is actually France's First Lady. (The fact that Hollande and Trierweiler never tied the knot makes this more complicated.) It's not an official position, but Trierweiler does get staffers at an office at the presidential palace. Bloomberg News says that in a meeting with the press yesterday, Hollande promised he'd clear up who'd be joining him on a February trip to D.C., uh, at some point before he leaves.

Congratulations, France, on having a wannabe Bachelor contestant for a president. What wouldn't I give to overhear even a moment of Barack and Michelle's conversation about this.

It's not like this is a first for the French presidency—see this Guardian article for a detailed chronicle of rumors about affairs in administrations past. Most of them are unconfirmed, but François Mitterrand's onetime mistress attended his funeral, right next to his widow. Guess that's what happens, though, when a tab publishes damning pictures of a president on a moped like a big dork—the whole nation starts talking.

Someone even created a video game where you play as Hollande. The object is to pilot the president's moped around paparazzi, his girlfriend, Gayet, and the mother of his children, politician Segolene Royal.

What's most striking, though, is how differently this is playing out from the way it would in America. Stateside, we'd have to have a big national debate about character and family values. The playbook is totally different across the pond, though. Bloomberg News says that the scandal has even given his poll numbers a slight boost, notably among women—and a follow-up article suggests that's because one of his big problems beforehand was being considered dull as dishwater.

According to Bloomberg News, France is mostly relishing this as a fat, juicy piece of gossip:

While the French may be fascinated with the personal lives of their leaders, they are less judgmental than in English speaking countries, said Gilles Savary, a member of parliament from Bordeaux.

"They are curious, but not scandalized," Savary said. "In France, unlike America, money scandals are more serious than sex scandals."

Imagine that.

Images via Getty