And here's how he tried to create the distraction.
"The exchange was violent on the part of Sarkozy," said a senior EU official.
"There was a lively debate," observed David Cameron afterwards.
Another EU official said: "Sarkozy was caught with his pants down. So he tried to create a distraction. It was a very strong exchange."
When Sarkozy describes the things which have been said as "outrageous" and "deeply hurtful", he is trying to move the playing field to how he feels, rather than to what he has done.
He branded criticism of him by the European commission as "outrageous" and "deeply hurtful".
He is deliberately emotionalising the argument, creating a situation in which he is the victim, rather than the Roma citizens whom he is deporting. He is talking about how he feels and imagining, as he does so, that he represents the whole of France.
His honour is at stake, so he imagines that he is defending the honour of the whole of France.
"I am the president of France and I cannot allow my country to be insulted," Sarkozy declared.Again, he imagines that France and he are the same thing. There is no-one speaking out against the French, but there are many condemning the actions of Sarkozy's government.
No-one is buying Sarkosy's almost child-like attempt to create a distraction. Nor, I suspect, do many buy his argument that he is defending the honour of France.
While many witnesses spoke of the passionate argument over lunch, Sarkozy maintained that he was "the only person who remained calm and did not use excessive language". That version of events was contested by several witnesses.
Reding has faced widespread criticism in Brussels and EU capitals for her invocation of the second world war in relation to the Roma dispute. But on the substance of the row – whether France has broken the law and the commission's role in deciding that – she has won widespread support.
Barroso, according to witnesses, told Sarkozy that the French had "a case to answer" and that it was the commission's job to investigate that. He accused Sarkozy of raising a fuss to try to divert attention from the real issue – whether the French authorities were guilty of racist discrimination and breaking European rules on freedom of movement for EU citizens.
"Many people questioned Reding's choice of words, but not a single person except Sarkozy questioned the substance," said a Barroso spokesman.
"There was a huge row over lunch with President Barroso insisting that he had a job to do of upholding EU laws on the free movement of its citizens and he would continue to do it.
"We will continue to consider whether to take legal action against France. That work is going on."
Sarkozy has been caught with his trousers down, and he is attempting to make his disgrace an insult to the whole of France.
He is now claiming that black is white, insisting that we should all ignore the fact that his Interior Ministry have been caught planning that the Roma population be removed "as a priority".
In the past six weeks, French police have deported more than 1,000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria and dismantled more than 100 camps. The interior ministry document told police to focus on the Roma "as a priority".
"Of course we are not aiming at a given ethnic population," said Sarkozy. More than 500 "illegal settlements" had been demolished in France in August, he said, with 80% of the people affected being French.
"There has been no form of discrimination whatsoever ... This policy will be continued."
That is what this is about. Did Sarkozy's government target Roma citizens for deportation? Their own Interior Ministry's documents say that they did. Sarkozy's childish outbursts are merely an attempt to obfuscate that fact.
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