WASHINGTON--The French press reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel disparaged incoming French President François Hollande on April 28---before the Saturday election, where he defeated Nicolas Sarkozy. City Hall issued a denial on Monday--before Hollande is expected in Chicago for the May 20-21 NATO Summit.
What is undisputed is that Emanuel, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, discussed Sarkozy and Hollande while at a White House Correspondents' Dinner after-party at the official residence of the French ambassador. The French loaned the spacious residence for the after-party hosted by Vanity Fair and Bloomberg News. Emanuel attended the dinner as a guest of Bloomberg News.
I talked with someone who was there during the exchange Emanuel had with a group of French journalists after the April 28 dinner.
Emanuel was curious about the French election--held on Saturday. "He brought it up," with the reporters, I was told.
The French journalists took a comment Emanuel made about Hollande as dis---that he "has more of the head of a prime minister than of a president." Emanuel is also quoted as saying that he can't imagine Hollande growing in office.
The U.S. website Buzzfeed.com on Monday posted a story about the Emanuel comments.
Emanuel knows Sarkozy; he has not met Hollande.
City Hall spokesman Tarrah Cooper said in a statement, "the Mayor said the opposite of what is being reported. The Mayor said that everyone grows into the job and he wishes Hollande the best of luck."
Emanuel is friendly with French Ambassador François Delattre. "The Ambassador will be in Chicago this weekend, attending the annual gala of the Alliance Française," a spokesman for the French Embassy here told me on Monday. He will return later this month for the NATO summit with Hollande, who will by then be sworn into office.
Emanuel--who studied ballet and is a dancer--is working with the embassy to being The Paris Opéra Ballet to Chicago between June 26th and July 1st.