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October 29, 2007

Sarkozy Vs. 60 Minutes: Not Exactly The French Revolution



Not since June of ‘04 was I prepared to get as much pleasure out of a TV interview.  (That was when Washington correspondent for Irish television, Carole Coleman, put Bush between Iraq and a hard place.)

In this incident, what appeared to have happened (in the most delicious way) is that French President Sarkozy stood up to Leslie Stahl and a 60 Minutes film crew for being grilled over his personal life.  The look on Stahl’s (reconstructed) face when Sarko walks out is worth a million dollars for the comeuppance.  (Video here.)  And, in a second clip with the original audio, after Sarkozy walks, there’s Leslie from Page Six calling out: “What was unfair?!”

But then, studying the first clip, it doesn’t quite make sense what caused Sarko’s eyebrows to hit the ceiling when they did, and what set him off so.  Certainly, he was expecting to be asked, even leaned on, about his wife’s walking out on him.  So, what was the problem? 

What I believe happened was a misunderstanding (partly due to Stahl’s phrasing, or gesturing? or Sarko’s dependence on a translator? or, mostly, the sensitivity of the subject?) based on what Sarkozy heard.  (Notice, in the sequence above, first Sarko seems completely surprised, then Stahl — rather than pleased for cutting his jugular — seems genuinely confused why he’s storming off.)

Here’s how I understand it…

When Stahl pressed Sarkozy about people wanting to know about his relationship, he answered that even if he had something to say, he wouldn’t share it with 60 Minutes.  Stahl then persisted, emphasizing how everybody keeps asking about it.  Pointing off camera toward Sarkozy’s staff, Stahl then said:  “Even your press secretary was asked at your press briefing today about it.”  What I believe happened at that point, however, is that Sarko thought she said: “Even your press secretary was asking about it.“  At least, that’s what the eyebrows that nearly dented the ceiling seemed to indicate.  Apparently, Sarko heard “mutiny.”

This account seems more understandable when we hear Stahl, in a voice-over in the second clip, note how Sarkozy lambasted his press secretary before he walked off.  In the first clip, you can also see how Sarkozy turns and goes on a rant while glaring at the poor guy, who is standing (as seen in clip two) against the far wall.

Before examining more closely, I was ready to wrap up this story with the declaration:

It’s about time somebody told one of these invasive Bab-wa Walters cheap-ratings infotainment clones to take a leap.

But alas, I think the incident was more inadvertent than that.  Rather than standing up to a shallow media, Sarkozy — prideful and green on the international stage — simply lost it.


(Update 12:25 EST: Slightly revised for content. Also, the second clip is now accurate.)

(screen shots. CBS Video via You Tube.)

  • Pedro

    Uhm, you may have bungled the link to the “different clip”…
    Cheers, Pedro.

  • Darwin

    inadvertent? Maybe. A translation error? Maybe. This was reasonably simple English, and Sarko and his translator understand English well enough not to have fallen for a basic error like this.
    Good made for TV theater anyway. If it all was “just” a misunderstanding, why would CBS so gleefully plaster it on the show? I am sure they had enough substantive footage that they did not need to cover for the time.
    Do you not get the feeling that CBS was playing to the anti-french leanings of its audience? They get to plaster the President of France snubbing mighty “60 minutes”. How dare he? See how your prejudice that France or the French are this or that is being vindicated?
    “60 minutes” is a very sophisticated organization. I don’t think we need to explain to anyone there issues of cultural fineries. That they chose to highlight the item tells more about CBS, “60 minutes”, and the rating game,than it does about Sarko, France or the French.

  • Wisewebwoman

    I hadn’t seen Stahl in years and got quite a shock at her upgraded face, not whom I remember at all.
    Yes I agree totally. And all of it seems so, well, kindergartenish. This used to be a spot of some substance, 60 Minutes, now it is downgraded badly to catering to the infotainment sheeple. Surely they cleared questions first? And yes, of course it is a setup (Freedom Fries anyone?)dedicated to the knuckle draggers who still support Dumbya and his criminal policies.

  • The BAG

    The second clip, “Sarko The American,” has been updated.

  • Blake Incarnate

    The ‘new crew’ on 60 Minutes revel in attack dog status, Scott Pelly and Leslie Stahl. This is a fantastic clip! Stalh started the interview with embarassing personal questions, what a weasel, and then persisted. I admire Sarkozy on many levels, this response to an attempted humiliation and disrespect is commendable. He doesn’t get mad, he just dismisses the petulant child. If Clinton would react this way she would get much more respect than voting to allow shrub to bomb Iran to demonstrate her testosterone.

  • margaret

    This kind of nonsense is why I don’t own or watch television. It has absolutely no substance as a medium of serious thought. Just read the transcripts of interviews to see how shallow it all is.
    At any rate, anyone’s divorce is his own business.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    Leslie was lucky. If it had been Cécilia, Madame would have tossed a glass of water in Stahl’s face avant de laisser l’étape, says MadameGonzo.
    Stahl’s husband is Aaron Latham, a ‘writer’ best known for the screenplay of Urban Cowboy:
    Bud meets Sissy in Gilley’s Bar [Houston], and after a quick courtship, the two get married. It isn’t long after the wedding that they visit the bar, and learn that a ‘mechanical bull’ has been installed. Bud finds himself excelling at the mechanical rodeo, but feels both protective and perhaps a bit threatened by Sissy’s desire to learn to bull-ride. Bud forbids Sissy from riding it, causing a rift in their still new relationship.
    While Bud is working at the refinery, Sissy decides that she is going to learn how to ride the mechanical bull to impress her over-protective husband. She then goes back to the bar and secretly rides the bull during the day…

  • bob h

    It would have been fun to see how the insolent pretty-boy, Scott Pelley, would have done with Sarko.

  • Cactus

    I saw the interview and thought at the time that Stahl had asked a dumb question, since I couldn’t imagine many in the US all that interested in Sarkozy’s marriage. I thought it rude and unprofessional for her to have asked the second time since he had said that if he were to answer it it certainly wouldn’t be here. and I, too, thought that the second question was pointing the finger at Sarkozy’s press agent. I would have given Stahl more credit than that, but apparently, alas, she has lowered her standards. What would people think if AFP asked The W if it were true that he had reached a divorce settlement with Laura?
    Upon further reflection, I tend to agree that it was an intentional set-up of the “gotcha” variety.

  • Grenouille

    I think Leslie Stahl was played brilliantly by Sarko. He knew her reputation and was ready for the question. He pretended to not have enough time for the interview, then stormed off the set when asked about Cécilia. This shows the French that even though he’s sympathetic to the Americans, he won’t let them push him around. Even Americans watching this segment tend to side with Sarko, this garnering him international political capital. Those raised eyebrows were too staged. He knew very well that his press secretary had been asked about Sarko’s marriage. I’m sorry. You might not like Leslie Stahl, but I see her as the victim in this. She was set up, and Sarko used her to make huimself look better and more sympathic to people on both sides of the Atlantic.

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