By Henry Samuel in Paris
The revelations in his 2005 autobiography “The Bad Life” have come back to haunt Mr Mitterrand after he emerged as one of the most vociferous defenders of Roman Polanski, the film director currently detained in Switzerland in connection with an outstanding conviction for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl in the US in 1977.
In his book, Mr Mitterrand, the nephew of the late Socialist president François Mitterrand, wrote: “I got into the habit of paying for boys...All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excite me enormously.
“One could judge this abominable spectacle from a moral standpoint but it pleases me beyond the reasonable.”
Curiously, there was little outcry when the book was published in 2005. However, Mr Mitterrand’s tastes were brought to the fore on Monday by Marine Le Pen, daughter of the far-right National Front leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, on a political chat show.
Miss Le Pen read out a passage in which Mr Mitterrand wrote: “The profusion of very attractive and immediately available young boys puts me in a state of desire that I no longer need to hinder nor hide...as I know that I will not be refused.”
Her call for his resignation has become an internet hit.
On Tuesday, the opposition Socialists joined the chorus of outrage. Benoît Hamon, the party spokesman, said: “As a minister of culture he has drawn attention to himself by defending a film maker and he has written a book where he said he took advantage of sexual tourism. To say the least, I find it shocking.”
Mr Mitterrand responded on Tuesday by saying he was “flabbergasted”.
“If the National Front drag me through the mud then it is an honour for me.
“If a leftist politician drags me through the mud then it is a humiliation for him,” he added.
Xavier Bertrand, the head of Mr Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party, defended Mr Mitterrand. “The Socialists are now on the same ground as the extreme right, it’s incredible. One is not obliged to use private life for political ends,” he said.
Mr Mitterrand, who joined the cabinet in June, was considered a great catch for Mr Sarkozy and proof of his “open” style of government; the minister comes from a grand Socialist family and is admired by many in the Left-wing cultural establishment. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the first lady, was said to have had a hand in his nomination.
Politicians from across the spectrum criticised his vitriolic attack on the arrest of Mr Polanski, a French citizen who US authorities wish to extradite over his 1977 conviction. Mr Mitterrand initially described the pursuit of the director as “callous” and “absolutely horrifying”, but then toned down his criticism.