The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Why won’t Macron talk to the media? His ‘complex thought process’ may be to blame.

French President Emmanuel Macron poses with students after a medal presentation ceremony to French military personnel in the courtyard of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris on June 30. (Pool photo by Thibault Camus via European Pressphoto Agency)
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The president of France is not lacking in confidence. Just 39 years old, Emmanuel Macron seduced France this spring into electing him as the country's youngest president — even though he did not have the backing of major political groups and had never competed in an election before. So assured was he of his victory that he allowed a documentary crew to follow him during his campaign.

This confidence, however, does not seem to extend to post-election interviews with French journalists.

Since Macron entered the Elysee Palace on May 7, the French leader has granted only one major interview to a French newspaper (and even in that case, Le Figaro was forced to share the interview with other, foreign news outlets). Now, according to a report in the newspaper Le Monde, Macron plans to cancel a traditional question-and-answer session with French journalists held on Bastille Day.

Explaining why he would not be speaking to reporters, an Elysee source told Le Monde that while the French president does not “balk” at the thought of talking to journalists, his “complex thought process” didn't lend itself to interviews with journalists. Instead, the newspaper reported, Macron would seek to speak to the public directly through speeches — including one set for July 3 that his team hopes will be like an American president's State of the Union address.

Le Monde's report left many journalists seething. “I do not understand,” Olivier Faye, a journalist for the newspaper, commented sarcastically as he tweeted the story. Vivien Vergnaud, a journalist with Le Journal du Dimanche, suggested it was the “best excuse of the year.”

The French edition of BuzzFeed publishing an article titled "10 sentences from Macron that are too complex for you, sorry losers.” The article highlighted some of Macron's more inelegant phrases during interviews with the media over the years, such as in 2015 when he described his former life as a banker to the Wall Street Journal. “You’re sort of a prostitute,” Macron said. “Seduction is the job.”

The president has pledged to use his background in business to help find a new path in French politics — what he has dubbed “radical centrism,” unburdened by party allegiances. It seemed to serve him well, leading him to not only take the presidency but also win a huge majority in Parliament in June. Macron has set himself ambitious targets, like tackling a controversial labor reform and “moralizing public life” — but the president has also said he wants to strike a lofty, “Jupiterian” tone for his presidency above the issues of day-to-day politics.

Held on July 14 each year, Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 at the start of the French Revolution. A news conference has traditionally been held on the day since the presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the 1970s. However, the French public doesn't seem too upset: A poll conducted for Le Figaro and released Friday found that almost three-quarters favored Macron's current communications policy.

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