Sarkozy Defends His Record In TV Interview

In a three hour TV interview, French President Nicolas Sarkozy defended his record. He apologized for gaffes committed during his five years as president and promised to squeeze more taxes out of the country's biggest companies. But with the election just two months off, some say it might be too little too late.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. French President Nicolas Sarkozy took to television yesterday and issued a string of apologies. The presidential election in France is less than two months away, and Sarkozy trails his opponent. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, the confessional TV interview may have been an attempt to win votes.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: From the very beginning of his term, Sarkozy made mistakes that have haunted his presidency. Like the night he was elected, he celebrated at one of Paris' most posh restaurants, Le Fouquet's on the Champs-Elysees. He's never lived that down, says political columnist Gerard Carreyrou.

GERARD CARREYROU: And he celebrated his victory with friends. And among these friends, there were some very important rich people. And this has been the beginning of a never stopping attack on him saying he's the president of the rich.

BEARDSLEY: Tuesday night, Sarkozy appeared on one of France's most popular political shows and tried to explain away some of his gaffes and faux pas.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRENCH TV SHOW)

BEARDSLEY: He said, in retrospect, he shouldn't have eaten at Le Fouquet's or gone on a vacation right after his election on billionaire pal Vincent Bollore's yacht. But it's not just that Sarkozy is considered a chum of the rich. He's also been accused of rude and boorish behavior, unfitting of the presidential office.

One moment he may never live down is when he told a farmer at an agriculture fair who didn't want to shake his hand: Get lost, you poor jerk. Last night, Sarkozy admitted that it wasn't the best reaction.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRENCH TV SHOW)

PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY: (Through Translator) He told me that I dirtied him and not to touch him. So, yes, then I said the famous sentence. And someone picked it up on a cell phone. But, of course, I should have never spoken that way.

BEARDSLEY: Sarkozy described the presidency as a pressure cooker. He defended his record and his attempts to help France through the economic crisis. His appearance on television is seen as an attempt to get back into voters' good graces. Analyst Gerard Carreyrou says it just might work.

CARREYROU: My opinion, he did very well because his presidency was not a failure, like some people try to say.

BEARDSLEY: Carreyrou says polls in the coming days will show if the French believe Sarkozy is sincere and are ready to give him another chance. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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