From the venerable Economist:
For the traditional political right who form the backbone of Mr Sarkozy’s electorate, the most serious of the scandals has been the admission by Frédéric Mitterrand, the openly gay culture minister, that he paid “boys” for sex in brothels in Thailand and France. Opposition politicians—led by Marine Le Pen, vice-president of the far-right National Front—unearthed the comments in a book he wrote in 2005. In it, Mr Mitterrand, who is the nephew of a Socialist former president, fills pages with extraordinarily detailed description of his various encounters. At Thai sex shows, he writes: “The profusion of very attractive and immediately available boys puts me in a state of desire that I no longer need to restrain nor hide.”
His words took on new meaning after Mr Mitterrand, a well-known television producer who is treated as a national treasure, last month called “absolutely appalling” the arrest in Switzerland of Roman Polanski, a film-maker facing extradition to America, where he had pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. As quotes from the book were splashed all over the press, and opposition politicians demanded his resignation, Mr Mitterrand told French television that, yes, he paid for sex with “boys”. But, he added, they were not under-age and were consenting. He went on to condemn both sex tourism (which he admits to having practised) and paedophilia (which he denies).
Ministers have tried to dismiss the affair as a distraction, arguing that it concerns Mr Mitterrand’s private life and not his capacity to carry out his job promoting French culture. “I don’t see what the problem is,” declared Henri Guaino, one of President Sarkozy’s closest advisers. Yet the affair has shocked not only the right, drawn to Mr Sarkozy’s pre-election promise to restore morality to public life and “turn the page on May ‘68”, but also the left. “At a time when France is working with Thailand to combat the scourge of sex tourism,” declared Benoît Hamon, Socialist Party spokesman, “along comes a government minister explaining that he is himself a consumer of it.”