Emmanuel Macron’s candidate to be the next mayor of Paris has withdrawn from the race with just weeks to go before polling day after “compromising videos” of a sexual nature emerged online.
A former spokesman for Emmanuel Macron’s government, founding En Marche! party figure Benjamin Griveaux was standing to be the next mayor of Paris in the hotly contested election due to take place from March 15th of this year. He spectacularly withdrew Friday, however, complaining of “vile attacks” and a “very clear” invasion of privacy after a video was published on a Canadian website on Wednesday.
Griveaux has previously polled strongly in the race to become the next mayor of Paris. He said Friday: “A website and social networks have launched vile attacks concerning my private life. My family does not deserve this. No one should ever be subjected to such abuse. 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… this is going too far.”
Comments made by Griveaux’s lawyer to French newspaper Le Parisien make clear they believe the leak is a criminal offence, although they fell short of confirming the video was authentic. Lawyer Richard Malka said: “It is a very clear invasion of privacy… But it is also a criminal offence since it is an attack on the privacy of private life punished by article 226-2 of the Criminal Code. And I’m not interested in the question of whether this video is authentic or not. The offence is constituted anyway.”
Poll: 69 Per Cent of French Predict Macron Will Lose Next Election https://t.co/hPBm6zvHSw
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) January 25, 2020
The lawyer further commented that releasing the video was “totalitarian, Orwellian” and was reminiscent of denunciation politics as formerly practised in Communist Eastern Europe.
Yet the artist who claimed responsibility for the release made clear that his intentions was to expose Griveaux — and other politicians he has targeted — as a hypocrite. The website that Russian artist Piotr Pavlenski claims to run, and which disseminated the video as well as a cache of messages allegedly sent by Griveaux to a woman, notes it is against “civil servants and political representatives who lie to their voters by imposing Puritanism on society, while they despise it themselves.”
Pavlenski is a long-time critic of the Russian government and previously sewed his lips shut in support of anti-Putin activists, and even set fire to the front door of a former KGB headquarters before he moved to France where he set fire to a Paris bank. The artist said he found it hypocritical that Benjamin Griveaux would stand on a platform of being the “mayor for families”, using family values and citing his wife and children during the campaign, while allegedly “doing the opposite” in private.
In terms of future plans for the anti-hypocrisy project, Pavlenski told French television on Friday that Griveaux was just his first target, and that his objective had been achieved. But he plans to continue targeting other politicians.
Although Griveaux’s lawyer stopped short of implying a state actor was behind the leak, he certainly hinted in that direction, stating: “I only notice that it seems well organised.” French populist leader Marine Le Pen — by no means an ally to Griveaux, herself Emmanuel Macron’s primary political opponent — also raised questions around the event, asking whether the politician had been “set up… which could be used to destabilise the democratic process”, stating the source of the video should be investigated.