The pregnancy rumours started the minute France’s hoi polloi saw Justice Minister Rachida Dati’s stomach when she returned to work after a long August vacation. Finally, last Wednesday, the glamorous, single, 42-year-old politician confirmed the obvious: she was expecting a baby. But she refused to answer the one question on everyone’s lips: who’s the father? “My private life is complicated,” explained Dati, “and I am keeping it off-limits to the media. I will not say anything about it.”
And many in the mainstream media, who operate under tough privacy laws, kept silent: Dati’s announcement wasn’t mentioned on the news atTFl, France’s biggest TV channel. But the press’s reluctance to enter political bedrooms, most famously that of the late president François Mitterrand, who maintained a second family in secrecy, didn’t stop some tabloids and Internet sites from speculating about possible papas. One candidate, former Spanish PM José Maria Aznar, even issued a press release denying he was the father.
For Dati, the daughter of an impoverished Moroccan bricklayer, who studied and worked with such intensity that she became the first cabinet minister of North African heritage in France’s history, the interest in her love life comes after a series of faux pas called her political acumen into question. Fast r year she appeared in a lavish Paris Match fashion spread at the same time as she was trying to axe thousands of justice system officials (indeed, she’s called “Rachida Barbie” for her penchant for wearing daring couture gowns). Then, this summer, the justice minister was severely criticized for abandoning her country’s secular traditions after she endorsed a court decision annulling a Muslim couple’s wedding because the bride wasn’t a virgin. Dati, a secular Muslim who had her own arranged marriage annulled two decades ago, finally agreed to have the ruling appealed. At least in her pregnancy, Dati is following one French norm: half of births are outside marriage. M
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