Presidential Stature For Sarkozy, Size Really Does Matter

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been known to take drastic steps to conceal his somewhat diminutive stature. At a recent visit to a factory, he reportedly made sure the cameras would only find him surrounded by people of similar height.

Sarkozy at a factory in Normandy defending his economic stimulus policies.

Sarkozy at a factory in Normandy defending his economic stimulus policies.

For French President Nicolas Sarkozy size obviously matters. At an official visit to a factory in the northern region of Normandy last week, the president -- whose exact height is somewhat of a state secret -- reportedly "cast" small people to appear beside him.

Although the government has denied the claim, calling it "completely absurd and grotesque," a petite worker told Belgian television that she had been selected to stand next to the president. The video clip has since taken French Internet sites by storm.

"I was told that you were chosen (to stand next to Mr. Sarkozy) because you are quite small?" one journalist asks the female employee at the Faurecia car parts factory in the clip. Her reply: a short and sharp "yes."

Although his exact height is not known, it is estimated to be about 1.68 meters (5 feet 6 inches), significantly shorter than the average Frenchman and about 20 centimeters shorter than his predecessor Jacques Chirac. Sarkozy known to be extremely touchy about his height. He often wears stacked heels and in June he was photographed standing on a box behind a podium that had just been vacated by President Barack Obama who was in France for the D-Day commemorations.

Good Things in Small Packages?

France's singing, songwriting and modelling first lady, Carla Bruni, has not commented on the incident, but regularly wears flat-heeled shoes to disguise the 12-centimeter height difference between her and her husband.

Pictures of last week's event, at which Sarkozy -- who took office in May 2007 -- defended his economic stimulus policies to workers in an industry sector badly hit by the global downturn, show him standing amidst a number of workers all significantly shorter than him. A welcome coincidence or a little bit of political tinkering?

One trade unionist at the factory told the French news Web site "Only people of small stature could pose beside the president. Those that were bigger than him could not." That way Sarkozy could convey more power and status. A spokesman for Faurecia has said there would be "no comment" about Sarkozy's visit.

And this is not the first time the French government has come under fire for allegedly manipulating their image. Over the summer, one minister was accused of bussing in fake customers to stand in a supermarket during a visit, making it look like his policies were more popular than they actually were.

cox -- spiegel and wire reports


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