Nobody has seriously suggested that Russian hackers are behind the troubles facing French presidential candidate Francois Fillon. But apart from that, if you were anywhere on the planet during the recent U.S. election then you might be wondering if you’ve seen this movie before. Formerly a front-runner in the French presidential race, Fillon has apologized for errors of judgement but denied acting illegally in employing his wife and kids while in office. He has vowed to fight on, very much as Hillary Clinton did last year. We think we know where this is going — it doesn’t look good for Fillon — but in the La La Land of French politics, there are probably more twists and turns to go. Fillon was nearly Filloff on Wednesday. A French news outlet reported wrongly that his wife Penelope had been taken into custody over allegations that he paid her with public funds for work she didn’t do. Fillon cancelled a key campaign appearance — the annual farm fair in Paris is a mandatory campaign stop for candidates wanting to show their support for rural France — and hastily scheduled a news conference.
But Fillon did not step down and pass the baton to the man he defeated in the primaries, former prime minister Alain Juppe. Instead, he doubled down. “I will not yield. I will not surrender. I will not withdraw,” he announced, saying the French public should decide his worthiness for the highest office of the nation.
It remains to be seen how Fillon’s defiance, and his defense, will play out. Not all French, even on the right, will be convinced, especially after a campaign that targeted the sleaze of the French establishment and his former boss, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is under investigation for misuse of funds in the 2012 campaign.