“CoiffeurGate”: French president Hollande pays his hairdresser over $10,000-a-Month

He's typically perfectly groomed and neatly turned out for every occasion but Francois Hollande's hairstyle doesn't come cheap.
He’s typically perfectly groomed and neatly turned out for every occasion but Francois Hollande’s hairstyle doesn’t come cheap.
As heads of state go, this one appears to be quite expensive.

The investigative and satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné reported on Wednesday that President François Hollande’s personal hairdresser has been paid 9,895 euros — over $10,000 — per month since Mr. Hollande was elected in 2012, about the same amount as a government minister’s salary.

The report is especially jarring for Mr. Hollande, 61, a Socialist who campaigned on the promise that he would be a “normal” and exemplary president but who has seen his private life spill into the open on several occasions.

It would be hard for Mr. Hollande to be less popular. His approval ratings, while receiving a bump from the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, have been persistently low. He has been forced to agree to a primary among left-leaning parties, including his own Socialists, to settle on a candidate for president next year — a first for a sitting president.

Mr. Hollande has not managed to deliver on his promise to significantly lower unemployment, especially among young people. His government has faced months of street protests over an unpopular bill to loosen France’s rigid labor laws. And he faces a potential challenge from his economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, who has hinted that he may run for president next year.

The new controversy — the hashtag #CoiffeurGate, “coiffeur” being French for hairdresser, was a trending topic on Twitter on Wednesday — could contribute to the image as a president who is out of touch.

Mr. Hollande is certainly not the first politician to encounter problems with hairdressing.

In 1993, two of Los Angeles International Airport’s runways were shut for nearly an hour so that President Bill Clinton’s Beverly Hills hairstylist could come aboard Air Force One to give him a haircut. In 2007, John Edwards, a former senator, had to reimburse his presidential campaign $800 to cover the cost of two haircuts. The Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin spent tens of thousands of dollars on hair and makeup in the homestretch of her 2008 campaign.

In France, opposition center-right and far-right parties were, unsurprisingly, critical of Mr. Hollande, and while reactions in his own party were more muted, some struck a harsher tone.

“That’s a lot of money for a hairdresser, and for the French in general,” Thierry Mandon, the junior minister for higher education and research, told the LCP news channel. “For many people in France that really, really, really is a lot of money.”

Still, the revelations have yet to morph into a full-blown political scandal in France, where the financial excesses or abuses of politicians are sometimes met with a shrug. On Twitter, French observers expressed a mixture of amusement and outrage.

“When my 2,600 euros of income tax represent one week of the hairdresser’s salary #CoiffeurGate #shameful,” one user wrote. “#CoiffeurGate — ah, now I finally understand the expression ‘budgetary cuts,’” mused another. Some photoshopped royal wigs, mullets or toupéesonto the French president’s sparsely adorned head.

The hairdresser, identified by Le Canard Enchaîné only as Olivier B., was first mentioned in a book by two French journalists published in April that aimed to give a behind-the-scenes look at the Élysée Palace, the presidential residence.

The book identified the hairdresser as Olivier Benhamou, and said that his monthly salary was 8,000 euros. When the tabloid magazine Closer wrote an article using that information, Mr. Benhamou sued them; that case is pending.

The work contract Mr. Benhamou signed with the Élysée Palace was recently introduced as evidence in a French court as part of that case, and was obtained by Le Canard Enchaîné, which used it as the basis of its report.

The contract was signed by Mr. Hollande’s former chief of staff. It is unclear whether Mr. Hollande knew how much the hairdresser is paid. On Wednesday evening, Valérie Trierweiler, Mr. Hollande’s former companion, wrote on Twitter: “Let’s be fair: F. Hollande was not aware of the hairdresser’s salary. I can attest to his anger when he learned about it later.”

The Élysée Palace confirmed the report, telling Le Canard Enchaîné that Mr. Benhamou started his days very early and that “he redoes the president’s hair every morning and as much as needed, for each public statement.”

A 2015 report by the Cour des Comptes, the French organization that conducts financial audits of the state and other public institutions, found that personnel spending at the Élysée Palace in 2014 — 68.2 million euros, out of the palace’s overall budget of 100 million euros — had fallen by 1.6 percent from the previous year and that staff numbers had been cut.

NY TIMES

  • Y K

    Given the amount of head hair Hollande has this must be one hell of a job. Or maybe he has to take care of the (thankfully) invisible parts of the Presidential body as well?

    • Omega

      Once again, your comment does not lack the sexual connotation.

  • Paul Hacker

    10,000 bucks a month for the hairdresser of a balding guy? Where do I get that kind of job! Ah… a socialist regime. They use ‘other peoples money’! Wait till they run out of that.

  • ToursLepantoVienna

    Sacre bleu! This is unconscionable!

    Will French hairdressers ever get a living wage?

  • Rudy1947

    The money would have been better spent halting the receding hair line.

  • 5thDrawer

    I got a good haircut in Tripoli, Lebanon (at midnight during Ramdadmadingdon) for 25LL. Better not let this get out to the Lebanese folks … LEB-TOPS will wonder why they can’t have a their own barber in the closet.
    And KEEP those “rigid labor laws”any way you can folks … ONE Premier here eviscerated the ones we had fought for since 1949, and left them toothless in the legalities, while making ‘just about’ everyone think ‘government regs’ could still be fair with employees-VS-employers in a ‘labour court’; which charges an arm a leg to take the case, makes the ‘correct’ ruling on it, but can’t make the employer actually pay what ‘the law’ tells him to – and after many arms and legs COUNTS ON the cheated employee to give up trying in the empoverishment of him and his Union. (Capitalism 101) And sure, that Premier got his ‘perky pension’ (with annual increases) after being turfed, ‘by the people’, but nothing corrected what he had done to ‘worker rights’ since then.

  • Hind Abyad

    Monsieur couillon s’en va t’en guerre bien coiffé.

    16 November 2015. Killing innocent children.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/pray-for-syria-killing-of-innocent-civilians-condemned-a6735836.htmlMonday

    Jully 18 2016..we can hear children screaming
    It’s WAR – France Just Attacked ISIS and Syria [VIDEO]
    http://www.usapoliticstoday.com/crime-war-france-just-attacked-isis-syria-video/