France's Sarkozy attracts mockery with Twitter chat

Reuters News
Posted: May 15, 2015 9:41 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy drew a wave of mocking comments about his judicial woes when he launched a rare question-and-answer session on Twitter on Friday.

During the near 1-1/2 hour session, followers learned that he has both a cat and a dog, and loved the third season of TV show Homeland, but most of the questions on the #NSDIRECT feed focused elsewhere.

In a sign that the judicial investigations surrounding himself and former advisers could cloud his comeback, Sarkozy faced a deluge of tweets on cases including Bygmalion, an events organization company judges suspect of over-billing in order to raise, covertly, money for his election campaigning.

As soon as the Q&A session was announced, dozens took to Twitter to question him on issues such as his decision to rename the conservative party "The Republicans" and the financing of his political campaigns.

The public response was such that some local media branded the PR operation a failure before Sarkozy even started answering the questions, with one tweet showing a picture of someone looking for a needle in a haystack with the headline: "Someone in @NicolasSarkozy's team has just found ... a tweet he can answer."

Live Twitter Q&A sessions can be a tricky exercise. JPMorgan Chase & Co had to cancel a session in 2013 after being flooded with insults, highlighting the risks companies and politicians take as they experiment with social media marketing.

Sarkozy, who retired from politics after losing the 2012 presidential election to Socialist Francois Hollande, returned last year to take the helm of the main opposition conservative party.

French magistrates ruled last week that authorities had acted legally in tapping his phone as part of an investigation into allegations of influence peddling, in a potential blow to his hopes to run for president in 2017.

He has denied any wrongdoing in these various cases.

Sarkozy's answers focused on the less contentious questions. Asked to comment in one word on the feud between far-right Front National party leader Marine Le Pen and her father, FN party founder Jean-Marie, he said: "Pathetic."

In contrast to judicial matters and questions about which TV shows he likes -- he's a bit behind on the latest season of Game of Thrones -- his teenage son Louis took to Twitter in the #NSDIRECT session to ask him for a bigger TV set in his bedroom.

Sarkozy said "yes" - as long as his son stops being so addicted to his laptop.

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Toby Chopra)