Nicolas Sarkozy stands accused of manipulating his height

He has been mocked for wearing stacked heels and standing on tiptoe in official photographs, but now Nicolas Sarkozy is at the centre of a new controversy over the alleged lengths he will go to in order to make himself look taller in public.

A worker chosen to stand on the podium behind the French president at a visit to a Normandy factory last week has admitted in a Belgian TV report that she was chosen because her small stature wouldn’t make the president look short.

The report, on the Belgian state channel RTBF, said a group of specially selected workers had been bussed in to stand behind the president at the Faurecia auto parts company.

“I am told you have been chosen because of your size, is this true?” the Belgian journalist asked one woman worker on the podium. “Yes,” she replied. “You must not be bigger than the president?” the journalist continued. “That’s right,” the woman said.

The report, broadcast this weekend, has fast become a web hit in France, angering the Elysée, which dismissed the allegation as “absurd and grotesque”. Faurecia declined to comment.

A trade unionist at the factory, who did not want to be named, told the French website “Only people of small stature could pose beside the president. Those that were bigger than him could not.”

Sarkozy is notoriously secretive about his exact height, which is estimated to be about 1,68m (5ft 6in). He is often seen on tiptoe on official visits, or when recently being photographed with the far taller Barack Obama and his wife.

The allegations that the Elysée had carefully stage-managed his Normandy factory visit and speech on the car industry and economy come after a series of controversies over deliberate manipulation of public appearances by Sarkozy’s ministers.

In the summer, one minister was accused of bussing in fake customers supportive of his policies to stand in a supermarket as he made a visit.

The president’s office has also come under fire for its measures to keep critical crowds away from the roads to public appearances, with one prefect in La Manche removed from his post after Sarkozy was heckled when arriving for a visit to the area earlier this year. -

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