Gavin Mortimer

Why a love child might help ‘Papa Zemmour’

Why a love child might help ‘Papa Zemmour’
Eric Zemmour and Sarah (photo: Getty)
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It’s not often you find Eric Zemmour plastered across the front of Closer magazine. Brigitte Macron, Beyonce and Lady Gaga are the preferred darlings of the celebrity magazine.

But this week’s issue – which is selling like gâteaux chaud in France – has on its cover Zemmour and his 28-year-old paramour Sarah Knafo and underneath what can only be described as a bombshell: ‘He’s going to be a dad in 2022!’

There are more photos on pages 12 and 13, including a close-up of Madame Knafo’s alleged bump as she and her beau, 35 years her senior, stroll through a Parisian park. The cynic might wonder if these photos are all very convenient. The pair are walking towards the camera at one moment and then they rest on a bench, whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears. Despite the chill temperatures of late November in the French capital, Knafo’s coat is unbuttoned allowing a view of her midriff.

Publicly, Zemmour is livid at the revelation, cursing the magazine in a series of tweets on Friday. ‘Public life, yes, voyeurism, no. Sorry for the perverted,’ was one declaration.

Some media outlets claim that Zemmour tried to prevent publication of the story, and his lawyer, Olivier Pardo, appeared on television on Friday warning of legal action. He described the story as ‘ignominious, repugnant, disgusting’.

Is Zemmour really upset or is it faux outrage? He’s the father of three children (aged 17 to 24) and now a fourth is apparently on the way, and the mother is an attractive 28-year-old. Talk about virile! The timing is also germane. A book was published last week about Nicolas Sarkozy and the newspapers made much of a quote he had given to the authors about what he perceives as Emmanuel Macron’s lack of presidential authority. ‘The heart of the matter,’ said Sarkozy, ‘is that he doesn’t have children.’

Macron 0 Zemmour 4. Might that be a factor during the presidential campaign, particularly given that Madame Knafo is believed to give birth in May, shortly after the second round of voting? It’s not hard to see how Zemmour might spin it, particularly when it comes to Islam and immigration, his two favourite themes. Why should you care about what France will look like in 2050, Monsieur Le President, when you have no children? I care because I fear for the future of my children and grandchildren, and so do many millions of our compatriots. What is your investment in France?

There was a time when French political figures knew their private lives would always be kept that way. Most famously François Mitterrand fathered a love-child (which he kept hidden during his 14-year presidency) with Anne Pingeot. Times have changed, a transformation that began with Sarkozy, who for understandable reasons, made no secret of his relationship with the former supermodel Carla Bruni shortly after he took office in 2007.

His successor in the Elysee, François Hollande, attempted to be more discreet when he began dating the actress Julie Gayet, but his affair was exposed when he was photographed travelling to an assignation on the back of a scooter. Hollande struggled to recover from that episode; not because he was caught cheating on his long-term girlfriend, Valérie Trierweiler, but because of the undignified way he went about his unfaithfulness. Infidelity is acceptable in affairs of the heart in France; oafishness is not.

This Closer exposé won’t do Zemmour any harm; on the contrary it will likely strengthen his appeal to that crucial demographic, senior citizens of a conservative bent who used to vote for the centre-right Republicans and are now being courted by Macron. This generation still believe in old-fashioned privacy and they will see Zemmour as a victim of a scurrilous celebrity magazine. They’ll also have a healthy respect for his vigour – and for him giving hope to all swinging 60-somethings.

Written byGavin Mortimer

Gavin Mortimer has lived in Paris for 12 years. His next book, The Phoney Major, a biography of SAS founder David Stirling, will be published by Constable next year.

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