Political affair sparks privacy row

TV star steps aside as liaison with politician exposed

PARIS — Marie Drucker, presenter of the late evening news program on France 3 and a rising star on French TV, has threatened to sue a celebrity tabloid and any other media outlet responsible for exposing her relationship with Francois Baroin, France’s minister for overseas territories.

Drucker has said she will step aside temporarily in February after Bon Week magazine published pictures of her in amorous embrace with the divorced politician. Both Drucker and Baroin are threatening legal action under France’s strict privacy law.

Some outlets, including the daily Le Monde, have published Baroin’s name this week, while others played up Drucker’s departure while failing to name the “public figure” involved.

France-Inter, the state news radio station, baffled some listeners yesterday by reporting the event, but coyly referring to a minister “bearing a passing resemblance to Harry Potter.” With his boyish looks and round glasses, Baroin has often been compared in France with the famed boy wizard.

The threat poses something of a dilemma for the French media, which has traditionally shied away from probing too heavily into the very many dalliances between scribes and politicians in recent years.

Last year, Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and the French right’s current frontrunner for the presidency, began a relationship with Anne Fulda, a political correspondent for the daily Le Figaro, after his wife left him. Fulda soon moved to other duties at the paper, but the French media barely mentioned her name in connection with the prominent politician.

France 2 news presenter Beatrice Schonberg, wife of social cohesion minister Jean-Louis Borloo, recently agreed to step down in order to avoid accusations of impartiality in the run-up to April’s presidential elections.