Holding a Grudge Against France's Tough-on-Crime Candidate

Reporter Elaine Sciolino again calls tough-on-crime French candidate Nicolas Sarkozy "a man more feared than loved."

Paris-based reporter Elaine Sciolino can't get enough of hating on French presidential candidate (and former tough-on-crime interior minister) Nicolas Sarkozy and a comment he made two years ago, when he described the hooligans who rioted and burned cars in a tough French suburb as "scum."

Sciolino repeated the detail in her Sunday story coauthored by Ariane Bernard, which wasn't even about Sarkozy but on Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front party.

"Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate, ventured into potentially hostile terrain on Friday, making a surprise visit to a troubled, multiethnic suburb of Paris..

"The visit was remarkable for its symbolic value: Mr. Le Pen stopped at the same spot where Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative presidential candidate who is leading in the polls, called young troublemakers 'scum' during a visit in 2005 when he was the interior minister."


"Mr. Sarkozy is still suffering politically from the 2005 incident and from telling residents of another grimy Paris suburb a few months earlier that he would use a Kärcher - the brand name of a high-powered hose used to clean graffiti - to rid them of criminal gangs."

He must not be suffering too badly, given that he's ahead in the polls.

Sciolino was back on Wednesday with "France's Unfocused Candidates Vie for Undecided Voters," and repeated her old insults against Sarkozy.

"But Mr. Sarkozy's angry, tough-guy reputation still dogs him. In a book to be published Wednesday, Azouz Begag, who resigned as equal opportunities minister last week, accused Mr. Sarkozy of once threatening to assault him.

"Mr. Begag recounts an episode, just after the wave of unrest in France's suburbs in late 2005, in which he criticized Mr. Sarkozy for using the word 'scum' to describe young delinquents. Mr. Begag said he received a phone call from Mr. Sarkozy, who, enraged, called him disloyal, and added, 'I'm going to smash your face.'

"Mr. Sarkozy said Mr. Begag was lying.

"But the incident in the book reinforces the image of Mr. Sarkozy as a man more feared than loved. Over the weekend, his opponents and even the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris, Msgr. André Vingt-Trois, criticized him for suggesting in an interview with a philosophical magazine that pedophiles had a genetic disposition to their perversion."

Sciolino used that same terminology to describe Sarkozy back on February 28: "Shortly before the widespread unrest in the fall of 2005, Mr. Sarkozy was in the Parisian suburb Argenteuil when he called angry young suburbanites 'scum.' That remark, combined with his huge deployment of police to return the country to calm after rioting broke out and his criticism of France's immigration policy as too lenient, has contributed to his image as a man who is feared rather than loved."

Sounds like Sciolino is the main one "contributing" to Sarkozy's negative image.