Francois Hollande hit back yesterday at damaging claims by his ex-girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler that he "doesn't like the poor", saying their welfare was his "raison d'etre", as he fought back against claims that he was too unpopular to run France.
In his first public reaction since the release of the autobiography the president denied her claims that he dismissively called the poor 'les sans-dents' (the toothless ones).
"I will never accept to have an entire life's commitment, everything that founded my political life, cast into doubt," Mr Hollande said.
An uncle of Miss Trierweiler rubbed salt in the wound yesterday by saying he was outraged by Mr Hollande's remarks. "You don't mock people who don't have the means to go to the dentist," Florent Massoneau told Europe 1. "He shouldn't have frequented my niece if he didn't think she was up to his standards."
According to 'Le Monde', the attacks on the already unpopular president has led to "panic" at the Elysee, with one unnamed minister lamenting: "There's no way we can keep going on like this until 2017."
Steering clear of the many personal attacks in the book, Mr Hollande commented only on the one about his left-wing credentials, saying: "The human relationship I have with the most fragile, the most modest, the most poor, to be at their service is my raison d'etre." The book sold out its first print run of 200,000 copies in the space of 24 hours.
Mr Hollande's personal woes have been compounded in the past two days by a poll making him the most unpopular president in history and by the dismissal of the new external trade minister Thomas Thevenoud, appointed only nine days previously, who had "failed to pay taxes" for years.
But Mr Hollande dismissed suggestions that he would have to step down should his approval ratings slide any further. "I'm halfway through my term and no poll, however difficult it might be to take, can interrupt the mandate the French people give the president. I am acting and will act until the end." (© Daily Telegraph, London)