French President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered a campaign to punish those responsible for rumours which circulated last month on supposed tit-for-tat extra-marital affairs by the French first couple.
Although the rumours have been discredited — and formally denied — the Elysée Palace is not prepared to let the matter rest.
Two journalists working for the internet edition of the Journal du Dimanche — which repeated the rumours in a website blog — have already been fired, apparently under pressure from the Elysée.
A senior communications aide to the president said that he expects other people responsible for spreading the reports on the internet to be fired and possibly sued.
Pierre Charon said: “We are going to war on these ignominious reports. We want to take things as far as we can to make sure this will never happen again.”
The rumours that both the president and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy were having affairs began as unsubstantiated speculation on Twitter early last month. The rumours, still without substantiation, rapidly spread to a series of French blogs and then to parts of the international press.