French president Nikolas Sarkoazy and the First Lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy have both been accused of having affairs in a saga supposedly gripping France. But on Thursday it was claimed that Carla and Nicolas 'infidelities' are actually a spectacular hoax, reports The Mail.
French magazine L'Express alleged that the story was cooked up by an unidentified trainee journalist who wanted to see how quickly unverified rumours could spread online. The reports began on Twitter, rapidly spread across a number of blogs and were eventually picked up by the international press.
But the 'traditional' French media have remained silent. A blog posting referring to the allegations on respected French weekend newspaper Journal du Dimanche has been removed. The Elysee Palace refused to comment on the claims.
On Wednesday night, Sky News released an interview with Bruni, 42, recorded last Friday before the rumours began to circulate widely online. Although not asked directly about the accusations, she said her 55-year-old husband would never cheat on her.
The French first lady described their love story as a 'real fairy tale' adding: 'He would never have affairs. Have you ever seen a picture of him having an affair?'
Pressed on whether she thought their marriage would last forever, Bruni paused before saying: 'I guess marriage should be forever, but, um who knows what happens. I wish it was forever, that's my hope, but we could be dead tomorrow.' She added she was very grateful to have met Sarkozy.
'The real fairy tale is how lucky, how incredibly lucky it was for me to fall in love at 40-years-old, and meeting someone that, you know, I could marry,' she said.
Bruni also talked about being constantly in the public eye. 'I must say that 99 per cent of things that people are saying are wrong... but it was always like that, even before my marriage,' she said. 'Some people invent, I guess. I don't really care, I don't really pay much attention to it, I must say.'
The French President is due to visit Britain on Friday without his wife. There had been claims that this strengthened rumours of an estrangement.
But Bruni was not due to accompany her husband as the trip is a working visit rather than an official state occasion.
Sarkozy wed Bruni, a former supermodel turned singer, in February 2008 after a whirlwind three-month romance. The pair met soon after President Sarkozy's divorce from his second wife Cecilia at a dinner party hosted by a mutual friend.
But Carla Bruni has not always supported marriage. 'I'm monogamous from time to time, but I prefer polygamy and polyandry,' she told the Figaro Madame magazine in 2007, adding: 'Love lasts a long time, but burning desire, two or three weeks.'
Bruni once described herself as a 'man tamer' and has had a number of affairs with intellectuals and rock stars, including Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, and has a young son from a previous relationship.