Frederic Mitterand in trouble over rent boys
Roman Polanski scandal makes his Bangkok confession hard to accept
The French culture minister Frederic Mitterand, who is openly gay, was fighting for his political life last night after it was revealed that he had admitted in a four-year-old memoir to paying Thai rent boys for sex during visits to Bangkok.
Opposition politicians have jumped on the case not just because it exposes him as a sex tourist, but because it brings into question his support for Roman Polanski, the film director facing extradition to the US over a 30- year-old charge of sex with an underage girl.
Mitterand, nephew of the former president Francois Mitterand, was one of the first senior French politicians to stand up for Polanski when he was arrested by Swiss police on September 26. "I strongly regret that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them," he said at the time.
Other members of the government, including foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, also expressed support for Polanski. But following a backlash from the French public, who generally feel the film director deserves what's coming to him, the French government was forced to issue a statement withdrawing support from the famous Parisian exile.
Mitterand admitted to his enjoyment of rent boys in his critically acclaimed autobiography, La Mauvaise Vie (The Bad Life), published in 2005. Opposition politicians went back to the book in the light of his recent appointment to Nicolas Sarkozy's cabinet.
"I got into the habit of paying for boys," Mitterand wrote. "The profusion of young, very attractive and immediately available boys put me in a state of desire that I no longer needed to restrain or hide."
At the time, he was praised for his honesty. But in the light of the Polanski controversy it looks like costing him his job. Benoit Hamon, a senior Socialist, said: "I find it shocking that a man can justify sex tourism under the cover of a literary account," said.
The word at the Elysee Palace is that it was Carla Bruni who pushed for the appointment of Mitterand, a non-politician who was well-known in France for his television work. Sarkozy's advisers were aware of the risks, given Mitterand's known homosexuality, but decided he would be protected by France's tradition of discretion over the private lives of public figures. That was before Polanski. ·