French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said Thursday he will not resign over his admission in a book that he paid to have sex with “boys” in Thailand.
In an interview with French television network TF1, Mitterrand said he “absolutely condemn[s] sexual tourism, which is a disgrace, and … pedophilia,” in which he insisted he has never participated. The minister described his 2005 book, “The Bad Life,” as a mix of autobiography and fiction. In one passage, published by the French newspaper Le Monde Thursday, Mitterrand describes in detail a sexual encounter with a “boy” he said was called Bird. “My boy didn’t say a word, he stood before me, immobile, his eyes still straight ahead and a half-smile on his lips. I wanted him so badly I was trembling,” he wrote. Despite the use of the French word “garcon” in his text, Mitterrand has previously said the term did not mean “little boys.” He said the males he paid for sex were his age, or maybe five years younger. It was not immediately clear how old he was at the time of the encounters he describes in his book. “It was, without a doubt, an error; a crime, no,” he told TF1 anchor Laurence Ferrari. Mitterrand, who is openly gay, said he spoke with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday morning and said the president supports him. In a July interview with the weekly French news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Sarkozy said he had read Mitterrand’s book, and found it “courageous and talented.” Mitterrand’s book has sparked fresh controversy in the wake of his recent defense of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was jailed last month in Switzerland on a 31-year-old arrest warrant. Polanski had fled the United States for his native France in 1977 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The culture minister told TF1’s Ferrari that he was “too emotional” when he denounced the filmmaker’s arrest in Switzerland as “horrifying.”
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“To see him thrown to the lions for an old story that really has no meaning, and to see him alone, imprisoned, when he was going to attend a ceremony where he was to be honored, that is to say, he was trapped, it’s absolutely horrifying,” he said October 4, according to Agence France Presse. The far-right National Front organized an anti-Mitterrand demonstration in Paris Thursday evening. “Send this message on to everyone who will not put up with this indecency!” the party’s Web site said. The party’s vice president, Marine Le Pen, has demanded Mitterrand’s resignation for what she termed his sexually deviant acts. Mitterrand responded, saying, “It’s an honor to be dragged through the mud by the National Front.” Mitterrand’s acts of “sexual tourism” have left “a dark smudge” on the government, Le Pen said. The group is also gathering signatures on a petition, online and on paper, from those who want Mitterrand to step down. “We really hope he will resign,” National Front communications director Julien Sanchez told CNN. “It’s an embarrassment for our country, that our culture minister has done this. It affects our international image. It’s not right,” he added. Watch report on the controversy surrounding French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand On the other side of the political spectrum, the left-leaning Socialist Party suggested Sarkozy should consider Mitterrand’s position. “It’s up to President Sarkozy to decide whether or not we can be involved in the fight against child prostitution and sexual tourism, and whether or not the acts written in an autobiography — written by a minister — are acts of sexual commerce,” said party spokesman Benoit Hamon. “If everything is relative and Mr. Mitterrand can be excused because he’s famous, well, I don’t excuse his behavior,” Hamon said. Martine Aubry, the leader of the Socialist Party, said she would wait until she had read the book before making any judgment. Mitterrand told an interviewer in 2005 that assertions that he liked “little boys” were untrue. “It’s because when people say ‘boys’ we imagine ‘little boys,'” he said then. “How to explain that It belongs to this general puritanism which surrounds us, which always makes us paint a black picture of the situation. It has nothing to do with that.” Mitterrand was a television personality, not a government minister, when the book was published. It caused a stir upon its publication, as well, and has been the subject of heated debate several times since then. In the excerpt published by Le Monde newspaper Thursday, Mitterrand talks about visiting clubs to choose young male prostitutes in Thailand — where prostitution is illegal and sexual intercourse with a minor is statutory rape and is punishable by imprisonment. “Most of them are young, handsome, and apparently unaware of the devastation that their activities could bring them. I would learn later that they didn’t come every night, that they were often students, had a girlfriend and sometimes even lived with their families, who pretended not to know the source of their breadwinner’s earnings,” the book said. “Some of them were older and there was also a small contingent of heavier bruisers, who also had their fans. It was the artistic side of the exposition: Their presence made the youthful charm of the others stand out.”
Mitterrand, the nephew of the Socialist former president Francois Mitterrand, joined Sarkozy’s center-right government this summer. Wikipedia, the user-edited online reference Web site, has locked down Frederic Mitterrand’s entry, preventing changes to it.