PARIS — In a country that adores a good political scandal, the “Penelope Affair” is already a blockbuster hit.
This latest episode in the constant kerfuffle of French politics stars Penelope — known as “Penny” — Fillon, the august, British-born wife of François Fillon, the conservative front-runner in France’s upcoming presidential elections. A French newspaper reported Wednesday that Penelope Fillon had received more than $530,000 in public funds over the past decade for an assortment of parliamentary jobs she never did.
Given that François Fillon, a hard-line former prime minister, is running on the controversial pledge to slash as many as 500,000 public service jobs and what he says is unnecessary public spending, the Penelope Affair presents a particularly acute embarrassment. Especially for a family man who has been selling himself to voters as the honest, moral choice.
By Thursday night, Fillon — whom a number of polls have projected to win the election — was on national television, playing defense and insisting that nothing illegal had transpired. By Friday, he had announced that he would drop out of the race if he were formally placed under criminal investigation.