Fake News: French Ex-President Sarkozy Did NOT Claim He Didn't Know Gaddafi Was A Dictator, Only Took 50 Million "To Help"

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fake News: French Ex-President Sarkozy Did NOT Claim He Didn't Know Gaddafi Was A Dictator, Only Took 50 Million "To Help"

Did former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy claim he wasn't aware Muammar Gaddafi was a dictator and that he only took 50 million from him just to "be of service" or "just to help"? While it is true that Sarkozy was recently interrogated by anti-corruption investigators about illegal campaign contributions coming from the Libyan leader the part about claiming ignorance and only wanting to help is totally made up and not true.

That story originated on satirical website Le Journal Du Nord (aka nordpresse.be) in an article published on March 21, 2018 titled "Sarkozy: "Je ne savais pas que c'était un dictateur, j'ai pris les 50 millions pour rendre service"" (archived here) which opened:

L'ancien président et meilleur esquiveur de balles depuis Néo dans Matrix, a affirmé aujourd'hui aux enquêteurs du parquet anti-corruption qu'il ne savait pas que Mouammar Kadhafi était un dictateur et qu'il avait « pris les 50 millions pour rendre service ». Persuadé que l'argent était propre et originaire de ses soutiens, Nicolas Sarkozy a expliqué toute la matinée qu'il n'avait rien vu venir et qu'il avait appris avec effroi en 2011 que Kadhafi était un être peu recommandable alors qu'il dégustait devant la télévision un sandwich boursin escalope.

Translation:

The former president and best bullet-dodger since Neo in the Matrix, said today to investigators of the anti-corruption prosecutor's office that he did not know that Muammar Gaddafi was a dictator and that he had "taken the 50 million to be of service ". Persuaded that the money was clean and sourced from his supporters, Nicolas Sarkozy explained all morning that he had not seen anything coming and that he had learned with dread in 2011 that Gaddafi was a bad thing when he was enjoying a schnitzel sandwich in front of the television.

As the Washington Post indeed reported:

PARIS-- A panel of French judges placed former President Nicolas Sarkozy under formal investigation late Wednesday for allegedly accepting bribes and illegal campaign financing, and misappropriating Libyan public funds.

The decision came after years of allegations that Sarkozy relied on a multimillion euro donation from the government of Moammar Gaddafi to finance his successful 2007 presidential run.

But the satirical article was probably meant to echo a different case stirring public opinion in France. The phrase "pour rendre service" ("to help out") was also used by the grandmother of Laeticia Halliday, widow of the deceased French pop-star Johnny Halliday, when she had to explain why she was the owner (on paper) of several companies that managed the rights to the singer's music and images.

Le Journal Du Nord (nordpresse.be) is a satirical website that was set up to mock the (real) sudpresse.be (since renamed sudinfo.be), a Belgian media group. They were involved in a lawsuit with each other in 2017 which was eventually won by NordPresse.

They have sort of a disclaimer in their header that reads:

Toute l'information vérifiée par nos analystes simiens

Translated: "all information verified by our monkey analysts".

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  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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