One of Nicolas Sarkozy's Cabinet ministers complained that journalists are behaving like vultures as they pick over his love life. Another asked reporters to leave him in peace.
The newly married leader's decision to break with the practice of past French presidents and expose his private life to the public has caused a dilemma for French reporters, who traditionally set themselves apart from more muckraking tabloid reporters in places like Britain.
But Sarkozy now feels they have crossed the line, and he's fighting back with a court case that, in theory, could send a journalist to prison.
What started the uproar? A report on the Web site of respected French newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur that claimed the president sent a message to his ex-wife, Cecilia, begging her to come back to him a week before his wedding to model-singer Carla Bruni. The report claimed the mobile phone text message read: "If you come back, I'll cancel everything."
The reporter stands by the story; Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, says it is pure fabrication. Instead of launching a suit for invasion of privacy or libel, Herzog is trying for a criminal charge usually reserved for forgery, which is punishable by up to three years in prison and fines of up to euro45,000, or about USD 65,000, if proven.
Several of Sarkozy's Cabinet members have lashed out at Routier and reporters in general. Human Rights Minister Rama Yade told RTL radio, "It seems like we're witnessing vultures who sniffed the odour of their prey and swooped down to attack it." Another minister, Eric Besson, said reporters should "leave him the hell alone.