This pizza evening during which Sarah Knafo brought together for the first time the avant-garde of the Zemmour campaign

Ava Djamshidi and François-Xavier Ménage publish “The intriguing Sarah Knafo” published by Robert Laffont.

Invitations were sent by SMS. “What are you doing Tuesday night? asks Sarah Knafo, casually, to Stanislas Rigault, future boss of Generation Z, then totally unknown to the general public. The meeting is set for April 6, 2021, at her home, in her two-room apartment in the Saint-Germain district. They are a dozen, received with ease. On the table, pizzas, a few bottles of wine. The guests stare at each other. “If I’m bringing you together here, it’s because you all have a different story,” she explains before asking them to introduce themselves. Journey, feats of arms. “Be efficient! she intimates.

In a corner of the living room, two investment bankers, whose CVs could suggest that they are defectors from En Marche! – which some guests do not fail to point out. It’s true for Julien Madar, who supported Macron in 2017. In a suit and white sneakers, this former Rothschild banker looks thirty years old. Now he invests his money in start-ups. Sarah Knafo has already asked him to think about avenues of financing, with a view to a “political adventure”. The next step ? File the statutes of an association domiciled in one of its offices, rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, in Paris. Next to him stands Jonathan Nadler, with the discreet and sober appearance of the financial executive he has been for almost five years at JPMorgan, a holding company specializing in mergers and acquisitions. The profile chosen by Sarah Knafo to embody the “ideas pole”. This requires coordinating an army of experts responsible for enriching the thoughts of the soon-to-be candidate. His employer is preparing to grant him a six-month availability.

The mistress of the house gives the floor to another interlocutor: Samuel Lafont. His political career is more reminiscent of that of his friend, unionized among right-wing students, at the UNI, then passage through the UMP where he supported François Fillon in 2017. The young Nîmes made a name for himself on social networks , an ardent defender of the radical right, and destroyer of marriage for all, always ready to agitate the Web, to saturate it with messages, according to his indignation. Above all, Samuel Lafont has a large – and tempting – database of right-wing activists and sympathizers. Often, Sarah Knafo questions him on how to optimize this gold mine in the context of a possible electoral campaign.

The speeches follow one another. Only one guest shows some signs of shyness, Stanislas Rigault. The law student is the youngest of the guests. At the time, he was only twenty-two years old. The hostess asks him to take notes, to record all the comments of the guests, and to send him this report. Like the macronists, they exchange their documents and other notes via the Telegram application. The former student of the Prytanée de La Flèche military high school is annoyed and wonders. This evening, is he present only to play the role of secretary? But the future strategic campaign director has other ambitions for this promising young man. For months, at the request of Sarah Knafo, he has been writing sheets serving as a basis for reflection for the host of “Face à l’info” on CNews. Clever, gifted, this member of the UNI student union represents youth wonderfully. It has its face, appearance, language and codes.

The pizzas are already cold. We protest in a joking tone, between two presentations. It is the turn of Antoine Diers, a thirty-three-year-old Northerner, recognizable by his blond mustaches which he combs in a loop. This sovereignist began a political career very early with Philippe de Villiers. In a few months, he will become deputy campaign manager.

The doorbell rings. Just out of CNews, Éric Zemmour crosses the threshold of this apartment that he knows well for having already multiplied the appointments there, with faces of the nationalist right in particular. He greets the guests. Some, like Stanislas Rigault, are seeing it up close for the first time. While others have been talking one-on-one with him for months.

Where to start ? The polemicist has a taste for anecdotes. Once is not custom – he hates to talk about his private life, Éric Zemmour summons a personal memory, and shares with the audience a conversation with one of his sons. “Dad, you have already won the war of ideas. Concretely, what are you doing now to change the country? he reports. Immediately, the guests understand.

Make way for the many questions from the members of this secret assembly. Is Éric Zemmour ready to leave Le Figaro and CNews? The remuneration linked to his activity as a polemicist? Can he physically take six months of campaigning? How to manage the hostility of part of the French? Financial parameters? Logistic ? “Care the ass of cows in the countryside, are you up for it? one of the participants shouts at him. Eric Zemmour nods, offers the posture of a man who has already weighed everything. “I don’t know if I’d like to pat the cows’ asses, but I’ve watched so many great politicians practice this exercise that, believe me, I’ll know very well how to do it! “he assures, as if a sports journalist, by dint of deciphering football matches, was able to turn into an ace of the round ball, on the ground. Then, one of the guests puts his feet in the dish: “And the private life which, from now on, can be exposed? They all know what it is. Éric Zemmour has been married for almost forty years to a lawyer. Together they have three children. Many lower their eyes. They then dare not meet Sarah Knafo’s gaze. Serene, she shows no sign of annoyance.

During this confidential meeting, a respected personality of the Republicans is present, not physically, but by videoconference: Patrick Stefanini. The architect of Jacques Chirac’s victory in 1995, this former member of the Council of State knows all the workings of the party and its territorial network, federation by federation. He has been in contact with Éric Zemmour for six months. At the time, he believed in his chances. “You have a boulevard in front of you,” he notes enthusiastically. He also got to know the counselor. “Her name meant nothing to me before I met her,” says Patrick Stefanini. Almost septuagenarian, the senior official confides his astonishment, the first time that he finds himself face to face with Sarah Knafo, well before the start of the campaign, in 2021. His age, his interpersonal skills, everything about her surprises him.

That evening, he listened attentively to the pen of Le Figaro recounting his fight. Twenty years he struggles to infuse ideas that no one currently embodies.

“Marine Le Pen seeks to erase what has made the historic success of her party. I do not believe in its current positioning solely on the social side, ”he says. When given the floor, Patrick Stefanini already evokes tactical aspects. He has esteem for the budding strategist, raises his qualities. “The least we can say is that she is not shy, he notes. She was very determined, part of something very programmatic. With an undeniable influence on Éric Zemmour. »

Ava Djamshidi and François-Xavier Ménage publish “The intriguing Sarah Knafo” published by Robert Laffont

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