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French minister under fire for gay sex tourism

PARIS (Reuters) - French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand faced calls for his resignation on Wednesday over a 2005 autobiography in which he wrote about paying “young boys” for sex during trips abroad.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand leaves the Elysee Palace following the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris July 1, 2009. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

The revelations in his book “The Bad Life” have come back to haunt Mitterrand since his impassioned defense of film maker Roman Polanski, who faces deportation from Switzerland to the United States for having had sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Politicians of all colors have criticized Mitterrand for his virulent attack on the United States. The far-right National Front has fueled the row by digging out excerpts from Mitterrand’s book that have raised eyebrows in France.

“I got into the habit of paying for boys,” Mitterrand wrote, adding that his attraction to young male prostitutes continued even though he knew “the sordid details of this traffic.”

“All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excited me enormously ... the abundance of very attractive and immediately available young boys put me in a state of desire.”

National Front vice president Marine Le Pen said Mitterrand had to step down to restore France’s moral integrity.

“Resign, Mr. Mitterrand and perhaps, afterwards we’ll be able to give lessons to other people,” she said in a television interview this week which has become a web hit.

In an unusual pairing, the leftist Socialist party also expressed outrage.

“As a minister of culture he has drawn attention to himself by defending a film maker accused of raping a child and he has written a book where he said he took advantage of sexual tourism. To say the least, I find it shocking,” Socialist party spokesman Benoit Hamon told Reuters.


Mitterrand is the nephew of former Socialist President Francois Mitterrand and was drafted into President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right cabinet in June.

Although he was not a Socialist, his surname still reverberates in France and carries a lot of clout. Sarkozy was delighted to have brought him on board, but now faces unease within his own UMP party over his choice of minister.

Mitterrand himself tried to shrug off the attacks.

“I am flabbergasted,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “If the National Front drag me through the mud then it is an honor for me. If a leftist politician drags me through the mud then it is a humiliation for him,” he added.

Although still openly siding with Polanski, Mitterrand has toned down his language, saying his emotions overtook him the day he heard that Switzerland had arrested the film director.

Mitterrand said at the time he was “stunned” and accused the United States of callous behavior.

“Just as there is an America which is generous and which we like, so there is an America which is frightening, and that is the America which has just revealed its face,” he said.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, editing by Mark Trevelyan