14 February 2020 18:45

Benjamin Griveaux

Macron’s candidate for Paris mayor Benjamin Griveaux withdraws over sex tape scandal

Image copyright AFP Image caption As he bowed out, Mr Griveaux said no-one should be subjected to such a "torrent of mud" A sex video has ended French ruling party candidate Benjamin Griveaux's hopes of becoming mayor of Paris. The ex-spokesman for President Emmanuel Macron's government, who was already trailing in the race, was apparently targeted by a Russian protest artist accusing him of hypocrisy. Petr Pavlensky, who sought asylum from Russia in 2017, said he had posted the video online. Incumbent Mayor Anne Hidalgo appealed for respect for people's private lives, while far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon condemned the attack as "odious". Prime Minister Edouard Philippe expressed his support for his former colleague and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner went further, warning that publishing videos without the author's consent was an offence punishable by a significant fine and up to two years in jail.

The video appeared on a little known website that featured a profile of Mr Griveaux's political ambitions and his "fanatical faith in family values". It then alleged that Mr Griveaux had exchanged intimate mobile phone messages with a young woman and sent her a personal video. Mr Griveaux told the BFMTV news channel that for the past year he and his family had been subjected to "defamatory remarks, lies, rumours, anonymous attacks... Mr Griveaux's lawyer said he would press charges over the publication of the video, which he said violated the right to a private life. He told French news channel LCI that Mr Griveaux was only the first politician that he would target: he had only just begun, he claimed.

French media have traditionally avoided prying into the private lives of people in public life and a number of figures referred distastefully to the "Americanisation" of politics. "To what new low have we fallen in public life that anyone is prepared to publish this kind of thing to bring down politicians?" Mr Griveaux was not favourite to win the mayoral race in March, but he has been a very close ally of the president and his political demise is inevitably an embarrassment for the president, the BBC's Hugh Schofield reports from Paris. Mr Villani described the "outrageous attack" on Mr Griveaux and his family as a serious threat to French democracy. Mr Macron came to power in 2017 and his new LREM party secured a majority in the National Assembly. French President Emmanuel Macron's favoured candidate to become Paris mayor has withdrawn from the contest following the publication of a sex video.

Benjamin Griveaux, viewed as one of Mr Macron's closest political allies, criticised "vile attacks" from a website and on social media concerning his private life. party and served as a spokesman for the French government until March last year. He resigned from that position in order to run for Paris mayor, with voters in the French capital due to go to the polls next month. On Wednesday evening, a video emerged online along with messages addressed to a woman and quickly spread on social media. Image: Mr Griveaux is viewed as one of Emmanuel Macron's closest allies Mr Griveaux added: "For more than a year, my family and I have been subjected to defamatory remarks, lies, rumours, anonymous attacks, the revelation of stolen private conversations and death threats.

Following Mr Griveaux's withdrawal from the mayoral contest, Anne Hidalgo - the current mayor of Paris who is standing for re-election - called for "respect for private life". But lately, Mr. Griveaux's campaign in Paris had been performing poorly, with polls showing him trailing Ms. Hidalgo and the candidate of the right, Rachida Dati. In the French news media, Mr. Griveaux was criticized for seeming distant and arrogant, even though he tried to capitalize on his status as a young married father of three. Mr. Macron's attempt to intercede in his favor ended in failure last month, when he tried to persuade the dissident Republic on the Move candidate Cédric Villani, a prominent mathematician-turned-politician, to leave the mayor's race. In France, unlike in the United States, the private lives of politicians and candidates are widely seen as being out of bounds in elections, and the publication of the videos was swiftly and widely condemned.

Mr. Macron's interior minister and close ally Christophe Castaner quickly said that the online publication of the video should "obviously be prosecuted." Mr. Pavlensky could face up to two years in prison and be fined up to 60,000 euros if he is convicted of publishing the videos. Under French law, it is illegal to publish or share sexual images or videos online of someone without their consent. It was not clear how he had obtained the videos, which purport to show a private text conversation that included sexual videos sent from Mr. Griveaux to an unidentified woman. A grim-looking Mr. Griveaux responded to the release of the messages in a video statement on Friday morning, saying, "It has gone too far." He did not explicitly refer to the videos, but said that for the past year his family had been "subjected to defamatory statements, lies, anonymous attacks, the disclosure of stolen private conversations, as well as death threats." Benjamin Griveaux has pulled out of the race to become mayor of Paris President Macron's candidate for mayor of Paris withdrew from the race today after a sex video and compromising images allegedly featuring him were published online. Benjamin Griveaux, 42, a former minister who co-founded Mr Macron's En Marche movement, dropped out after a political ally tweeted messages and a video that had been circulating online after appearing on a website. In these a man purported to be Mr Griveaux, a married father of two, flirts with a young woman, including images in which he appears to be pleasuring himself. "A website and social networks have launched vile attacks concerning my private life. My family does not deserve this," Mr Griveaux said. Married mayoral candidate Benjamin Griveaux, 42, allegedly was caught with his pants down or, more precisely, his manhood blasted across the internet, which made a very bad fit with the campaign he had run extolling family values. Griveaux, a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron and formerly the government's spokesperson, helped found the president's La République en marche (LREM) party, and was Macron's favorite to win election as mayor of Paris next month, event though he has been trailing conservative Rachida Dati and the Socialist incumbent, Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Then suddenly, on Friday morning Macron's golden boy abruptly withdrew from the race following the leak of racy screenshots and videos that depict the married Griveaux having sexually explicit interactions with an unidentified young woman. "Can you resend the video from yesterday," reads one of the messages allegedly from Griveaux to his lover. Political sex scandals have flourished in France and elsewhere for as long as there have been politicians. The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal in the early '90s ranks among the most infamous, of course, resulting in impeachment proceedings against the former U.S. president, and collective bewilderment and ridicule in France, where the private lives of political figures have been seen as separate and having no bearing on a statesman's professional capabilities. The scandal cost the aptly named New York congressman his political career, and even landed him in prison several years later for sending suggestive messages to a 15-year-old girl. While Griveaux is not alleged to have done anything illegal, the outing of the salacious messages (crudely speaking, dick pics, or videos) was nonetheless enough to put an end to his mayoral ambitions. "Are you over there with your family, or are you not yet a prisoner of your spouse and children?" reads one message allegedly attributed to Griveaux. Two videos that allegedly show Griveaux masturbating are included in the post, evoking the equally creepy but less animated crotch shots Weiner sent over Twitter nearly a decade ago. In an odd twist, Pyotr Pavlenski, a controversial Russian performance artist, has taken credit for publishing the materials, telling the French weekly Libération that he had received them from someone who had had a consensual relationship with Griveaux, suggesting that it was the recipient of the messages herself who was Griveaux's mayoral undoing. At a press conference in Paris on Friday morning, Griveaux formally announced his resignation from the mayoral race, while seeming to suggest that he was the victim of a smear campaign. "A website and social networks have launched vile attacks concerning my private life," Griveaux said. "For more than a year, my family and I have been subjected to defamatory remarks, lies, rumors, anonymous attacks, the revelation of stolen private conversations and death threats," he said. However, other politicians, including rivals, have been quick to defend Griveaux, calling the leaked messages "an abomination" and "a threat to democracy." "I send my complete and total support to Benjamin Griveaux and his family during this ordeal," Cédric Villani, a fellow mayoral candidate and onetime rival of Griveaux, said in a tweet. "Benjamin Griveaux fell into the oldest trap in the world: sex," she wrote in Le Point, adding that the mayoral hopeful had "no excuse." "Benjamin Griveaux couldn't have been unaware of the personal risk he was taking, nor of the risk this posed to his political party and to the president."