PARIS – With his poll numbers sinking, is French President Nicolas Sarkozy losing his cool?
An opposition leader pounced Sunday and Web surfers gawked by the hundreds of thousands over video footage showing Sarkozy snapping at a man in a crowd at a Paris trade fair.
"Casse-toi alors, pauvre con, va," he said, a phrase whose mildest translation is: "Then get out of here, you total jerk."
On Saturday while the president was working a crowd to intermittent boos, a freelance cameraman caught on tape an unidentified man telling Sarkozy not to touch him. The man accused Sarkozy of "dirtying me."
Sarkozy briskly snapped at the man and then moved on, continued to smile and shake hands with others along his path, saying "merci." AP Television News received a copy of the video from the freelance cameraman.
Le Parisien newspaper posted a video of the incident on its Internet site, and it tallied more than a half-million views by Sunday afternoon.
The president's spokesman, David Martinon, did not respond to a call to his mobile phone, and a lower-level official in the presidential press office declined to comment on the incident.
It is not likely to be welcomed by Sarkozy's fellow conservatives, who are already concerned that his sinking popularity rating could damage their chances in next month's municipal elections.
Socialist leader and frequent Sarkozy critic Francois Hollande, speaking Sunday on Canal Plus TV, said Sarkozy was out of line and that it was "intolerable ... that the president isn't exemplary."
Sarkozy bared a short fuse last year by calling Martinon an "imbecile" before storming away from an interview with the CBS program "60 Minutes."
Sarkozy has engaged in public shouting matches and used tough language from time to time over his political career. While interior minister in 2005, he angered many residents from poor housing projects by calling young delinquents "scum."
The president has seen his popularity sink in recent months. Some voters have been put off by Sarkozy's flaunting of his romance over the last few months with former supermodel Carla Bruni, whom he wed Feb. 2, at a time when many French are more worried about pocketbook issues and the creaky state of France's economy.