French President Francois Hollande has threatened legal action over a magazine report saying he is having a secret affair with an actress, the latest breach in the French media's practice of turning a blind eye to presidential love affairs.
Rumors have long circulated that Mr Hollande might have a lover. The magazine Closer published images today showing a bodyguard and a helmeted man it says is Mr Hollande visiting the apartment of Julie Gayet, a moderately known French actress who appeared in a clip for his 2012 presidential campaign.
French media faces strict privacy laws, as well as a long-time tradition of ignoring the private lives of public figures. Former President Francois Mitterrand had a daughter with his lover that the French media knew about but never revealed, until the president himself appeared publicly with her coming out of a restaurant.
But the publication marked the latest incursion into the once-sacred private lives of French politicians. The tradition of keeping private lives private has been chipped away since Mr Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy divorced his wife and remarried model and singer Carla Bruni, who whom he had been having an affair.
Bloggers, tweeters and other online sources have tapped into public curiosity and pushed the borders of French privacy. Closer last made a splash when it published topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Mr Hollande said in a statement he "deeply deplores the attacks on respect for privacy, to which each citizen has a right." He is weighing possible action, including via the courts, it said. He did not address the alleged affair.
He has never married. He had four children with politician Segolene Royal, and has been living in recent years with journalist Valerie Trierweiler, considered France's first lady.
Ms Gayet's lawyer and agent did not immediately return phone and email messages about the Closer report. The actress, who has performed in nearly four dozen films and sometimes appears on talk shows, praises Mr Hollande in the campaign spot for his humility and character, and says he is someone who "really listens".
Last year, according to French media reports, Ms Gayet filed a lawsuit accusing some websites of invasion of privacy over reports on the alleged affair. Her lawyer issued a statement to AFP at the time saying that she was targeting "a rumour spread on the internet that attributes to her, without any basis, a romantic relationship with the president".
The magazine says it conducted an investigation and claims that "there is, between Francois Hollande and Julie Gayet ... a true passion that has turned their hearts upside down, rocked their lives and made them take foolish risks."
It says the apartment is in the same Paris district as the president's palace, and is Ms Gayet's but registered in the name of actor friends. It says the pair has been meeting there secretly since June.