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NEW YORK — France’s president abruptly ended a “60 Minutes” interview aimed at introducing him to U.S. audiences, dubbing it “stupid” and a “big mistake” and refusing to answer questions about his wife.
Before the CBS news show interview in Paris even began, Nicolas Sarkozy called his press secretary “an imbecile” for arranging the session on a busy day.
“I don’t have the time. I have a big job to do, I have a schedule,” Sarkozy said through a translator before the interview began. In English, he added: “Very busy. Very busy.”
In the interview conducted this month and aired Sunday night, he candidly discussed what he likes about the U.S. But he grew frustrated when asked about his wife, Cecilia, who helped negotiate the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor charged with infecting Libyan children with HIV and then failed to show up at a ceremony in which Sarkozy was given a medal by Bulgaria.
“If I had to say something about Cecilia, I would certainly not do so here,” Sarkozy replied.
He declared the interview over and said: “Bon courage.” Two weeks later, the Sarkozys’ divorce was announced.
Before he broke off the interview, Sarkozy was asked about what he would like the American people to know about him. “I want the Americans to know that they can count on us. But at the same time, we want to be free to disagree,” he said.
The comment apparently referred to France’s opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, a stand that until recently had soured relations with Washington.
Sarkozy said he admired Americans’ work ethic and the opportunities for advancement in the country, irrespective of class or background.
He said while his Hungarian father had worried that his surname would be an obstacle in France, “he was proven wrong.”
“That’s what he thought. That a name like Sarkozy was a handicap,” the president said. “That’s the reason why I like the United States. You can have a name like Schwarzenegger and be governor of California. You can be called Madeleine Albright and be secretary of state. You can be called Colin Powell or Condi Rice, and succeed.”
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