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Francois Fillon rejects ‘abject’ allegations of wife’s fake job, stick to election bid

France’s Francois Fillon on Thursday said allegations his wife was paid for a fake job were attempts to harm his presidential bid, adding that they only strengthened his resolve to run in the election.

Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported on Wednesday that Penelope Fillon had been paid some €600,000 ($645,000) for many years of employment as a parliamentary assistant to Fillon, then to his replacement as a lawmaker and also for work at a cultural journal. The newspaper said its research had showed there was no evidence she had ever really worked. Fillon, a 62-year old conservative former prime minister, said that was not true.

His wife, he said, did work that included press reviews, proof-reading his speeches and meeting people for him. “My wife has been working for me forever, ever since I first got elected in 1981,” Fillon told TF1 television, adding that she did it for free for a long time before he hired her in 1997 as parliamentary assistant. “The question is why — while my wife had been paid from 1997 — this comes out now, two and a half months before the election? Clearly this is to try and take me down as a presidential candidate.”

Fillon, the conservative frontrunner in this spring’s election, had seen his ratings drop slightly in recent weeks prior to these allegations and had been looking to a big rally in Paris on Sunday to inject fresh life into his campaign. But the allegations about his wife Penelope have rattled the campaign of a man who has pitched himself to voters as an honest and morally irreproachable candidate, worrying lawmakers in his The Republicans (LR) party. “We’re in trouble, this is really not helping us,” one LR lawmaker said earlier on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

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