The Fall of the ‘Solar King’ of French TV, and the Delusion of Seduction

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PARIS — France’s most trusted anchorman for many years, he used to attract thousands and thousands in a night information program that some likened to a non secular communion. In an earlier time, he embodied a super of the French male — comfortable with himself, a TV journalist and man of letters, a husband and a father who was additionally, unabashedly, an awesome seducer of girls.

Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, nicknamed the Solar King of French TV, appeared so assured of his status that final month he sued for defamation 16 ladies who had accused him of rape, sexual assault and harassment, saying that they had been merely “jilted” and “bitter.”

Angered, almost 20 ladies appeared collectively this month in a TV studio for Mediapart, France’s main investigative information web site, with some recounting rapes or assaults that lasted minutes, carried out with barely a number of phrases.

In what has turn into maybe the most important scandal in France’s delayed #MeToo reckoning, their accounts amounted to a devastating rejection of the romantic persona that Mr. Poivre d’Arvor so assiduously cultivated with the assistance of France’s gossip pages and its strongest tv community. At 74, he’s clinging to that picture, denying all accusations and arguing that he’s simply an inveterate, serial “seducer.”

“He was known as a Don Juan for years,” stated Hélène Devynck, 55, a journalist who has accused Mr. Poivre d’Arvor of raping her at his house when she labored as considered one of his assistants within the early 1990s. “There have been articles in Paris Match that stated he was the paragon of French seduction. Which forces us now to ask, ‘What does that imply — French seduction?’”

A court docket might determine. Almost all the most critical accusations towards Mr. Poivre d’Arvor occurred so way back that the statute of limitations has expired. However since he himself has now sued, the case could present his accusers the chance to confront him publicly in court docket within the coming months.

“His ego is destroying him,” stated Cécile Delarue, 43, a journalist who has accused Mr. Poivre d’Arvor of partaking in sexual harassment when she labored with him twenty years in the past.

Mr. Poivre d’Arvor has dismissed the ladies as having been motivated by “vengeance” as a result of that they had not “loved the regard, or perhaps a easy look, of a person that they had as soon as admired,” in a written criticism that has been cited within the information media and whose contents had been authenticated by his lawyer, Philippe Naepels.

Mr. Poivre d’Arvor declined an interview request by Mr. Naepels, who stated that not less than yet one more lady may very well be included within the defamation go well with.

The direct confrontation between the anchorman and his accusers has contributed to a wider debate in France about seduction, courtship and consent that’s being performed out in mainstream and social media, the place these days the outline of a person as an awesome seducer can elicit derision, questions and skepticism, not admiration.

In response to the French information media, Mr. Poivre d’Arvor has been married for 50 years to the identical lady, who has not commented publicly on the accusations.

As his record of accusers grows, Mr. Poivre d’Arvor, who stepped down from the night information in 2008, has turn into, as Paris Match stated on its cowl just lately, a “pariah.”

On the peak of his reputation, between 1987 and 2008, 10 million folks — a sixth or extra of the French inhabitants — watched him day by day at eight p.m. on TF1, France’s greatest community. Alexis Lévrier, a media historian on the College of Reims, in contrast the broadcasts with a Mass, with Mr. Poivre d’Arvor assuming “an almost non secular function.”

Although the newscaster loved the form of affect that Walter Cronkite had in the USA, Mr. Lévrier stated, Mr. Poivre d’Arvor’s public persona additionally had quintessential French components. He wrote books like “The Ladies in My Life,” and profiles of him by no means failed to say that he was an awesome lover and seducer.

On air, he appealed particularly to a audience of girls underneath 50, Mr. Lévrier stated.

“He had a means of whispering, of not talking clearly, that whereas he spoke to thousands and thousands gave every particular person the impression that he was addressing them,” he stated.

However contained in the imposing headquarters of TF1, Mr. Poivre d’Arvor maintained a hypersexual atmosphere, based on former staff and a number of accounts within the French information media. He recurrently invited younger ladies to look at his stay broadcasts earlier than main them to his personal workplace, the place a number of of the ladies say he assaulted them. He additionally pressed younger feminine staff for intercourse, or sexually harassed them, based on former staff, together with Ms. Devynck, the previous assistant.

Spokespeople for TF1 didn’t reply to requests for interviews.

Ms. Devynck stated she by no means informed anybody on the workplace that the information anchor had raped her, however requested to be transferred to different duties contained in the community.

“I knew that, on the time, if I complained, he was the seducer and so I used to be the whore — I couldn’t say something due to his energy and the assist he had,” stated Ms. Devynck, who went on to a profitable profession at different channels.

A decade later, when Ms. Delarue arrived at TF1 in 2002, she discovered that little had modified. Being sexually harassed by Mr. Poivre d’Arvor was a ceremony of passage that new feminine staff needed to endure, she recalled.

In her case, after he humiliated her by asking her in entrance of others whether or not she was married and trustworthy, she stated, she averted attending editorial conferences, the place he usually made feedback about ladies’s appearances.

Ladies couldn’t win, Ms. Delarue stated. In the event that they went to his workplace, they had been considered “sluts” whose careers had been subsequently tainted, she stated. In the event that they refused his advances, their careers went nowhere.

“I’m of a technology that was raised with the concept that ladies and men had been equal, and that it was by work that I’d achieve freedom — my mom informed me usually,” Ms. Delarue stated. “However this man simply noticed me as a contemporary piece of meat.”

Ms. Delarue left TF1 after 18 months. She labored at different channels after which lived in Los Angeles for a number of years. She was there when the #MeToo motion erupted in 2017, ending the careers of TV personalities like Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer inside months.

“It was precisely the identical factor,” Ms. Delarue recalled considering, and he or she waited for somebody to talk up towards Mr. Poivre d’Arvor.

It could take almost 4 years.

A well-known letter written by Catherine Deneuve and different distinguished Frenchwomen denounced #MeToo as “puritanism” and defended “the liberty to importune” as a part of French “gallantry.” Conventional French feminism — and its fierce rejection of #MeToo as an American aberration — was a “lure” that led ladies to imagine that they may very well be free with out worrying about sexual violence, Ms. Devynck stated.

Nonetheless, French male id started being questioned in books and in public debate.

Publicly, Mr. Poivre d’Arvor had been the fashionable incarnation of a French gallantry — upright, literary and a seducer — with roots within the 17th century, stated Ivan Jablonka, a historian on the Sorbonne who has explored the evolution of French masculinity.

“However when you contemplate French literature of the 18th century, nearly each e-book accommodates a love scene with a component of pressure or rape,” Mr. Jablonka stated.

“In recent times, these supposed nice seducers have fallen additional into disrepute,” he stated, including that Mr. Poivre d’Arvor’s case “is undermining entire strata of French masculinity.”

Mediapart, the information web site, established a desk to analyze sexual violence and appointed a gender editor. It has uncovered a sequence of #MeToo scandals, reporting even within the absence of an official inquiry — one thing that a lot of the French information media stays reluctant to do.

Marine Turchi, the positioning’s lead reporter on sexual violence, has taken nothing with no consideration — together with the parable of the nice seducer, which, in her investigations, is recurrently evoked to justify sexual violence.

“French seduction and French gallantry have served for years as smoke screens and alibis,” Ms. Turchi stated.

However it was the newspaper Le Parisien that first broke the story in February 2021 after a author, Florence Porcel, accused Mr. Poivre d’Arvor of sexual assault and the authorities opened an investigation.

One of many first ladies to publicly assist her was Clémence de Blasi, one other author, who, after studying the general public response, felt compelled to recount on Twitter her personal expertise with Mr. Poivre d’Arvor.

“His picture was so highly effective that folks saved saying it’s not doable, he’s such a seducer, she ought to have been flattered,” Ms. de Blasi, 33, recalled. “I saved studying, ‘French attraction, gallantry and seduction,’ when it wasn’t about that in any respect.”

In 2015, simply out of journalism faculty and on her first freelance project, Ms. de Blasi was requested to go interview Mr. Poivre d’Arvor — however with warnings from her personal editors and pals in journalism.

“Little jokes about not sporting a décolleté, make-up or a skirt,” she recalled.

The interview went with out incident. However Mr. Poivre d’Arvor adopted up with persistent calls asking her out to dinner, she stated. When she refused, he known as her editors to say she was a “unhealthy journalist” who had refused to simply accept a scoop from him, Ms. de Blasi stated.

Shielded by his status, Mr. Poivre d’Arvor initially appeared capable of trip out the scandal. However then he gave a disastrous TV interview, saying that “seduction was essential” to his technology and included “kisses on the neck.” Denying that he had ever coerced any lady, he challenged anybody to “look into his eyes” and inform him the opposite.

The subsequent day, Ms. Devynck went to the police — considered one of almost 30 ladies who finally did.

“The hole between this man’s picture and what I knew was so nice,” she recalled.

The nice seducer is “such part of our collective creativeness,” she stated. “And the issue is that a part of French society nonetheless believes in it, or not less than believed in it.”

Adèle Cordonnier contributed reporting.





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