Benjamin Griveauxs troubled campaign for mayor of Paris came to a startling end on Friday after an online leak of sexual images led Emmanuel Macrons close ally to pull out of the race, leaving the ruling party without a candidate for next months municipal elections.
Griveaux, 42, said he opted for retreat to protect his family after a website published excerpts from private sexual videos, accompanied by screengrabs of racy text messages, which it said came from the former government spokesman.
"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," Griveaux told reporters as he announced he was quitting the contest.
His demise triggered a chorus of alarm and dismay from across the political spectrum, with allies and rivals alike warning that French democracy was being endangered by intrusions into politicians private lives and social media hounding.
It also dealt a stinging blow to Frances ruling LREM party, which has been rocked by unprecedented divisions – some stemming from the bitter contest that resulted in Griveaux getting the nomination in the first place.
“This is a huge blow for the ruling party, and a huge blow for French politics in general,” Bruno Cautrès, a political analyst at Sciences-Po Paris, told FRANCE 24, describing the manner of Griveaux's demise as a "political earthquake".
The former mayoral candidate is a high-profile public figure, Cautrès noted, one of Macrons earliest supporters, a lawmaker and a former government spokesman. He was running for the most coveted of France's municipalities, a political fiefdom that has been used in the past, notably by former French President Jacques Chirac, as a springboard for higher office – and one Macrons camp was desperate to claim.
Politicians close ranks
According to French daily Libération, the video was first published online by a Russian performance artist who wished to expose Griveauxs “hypocrisy”. Pyotr Pavlensky reportedly said he got the video from a "source" who had a consensual relationship with Griveaux.
"[Griveaux] is someone who constantly brings up family values, who says he wants to be the mayor of families and always cites his wife and children as an example. But he is doing the opposite," Libération quoted Pavlensky as saying.
"I don't mind people living the sexuality they wish (…), but they have to be honest," he added. "He wants to be the head of the city and he lies to voters. I now live in France, I am Parisian, it is important for me."
Politicians across the board were quick to disagree, rallying in support of the beleaguered former candidate and his right to privacy.
Incumbent Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo, who leads the race in opinion polls, called for "the respect of privacy and of people”, while her centrist opponent Cedric Villani, who lost out to Griveaux in a deeply divisive race for the LREM nomination, warned in a tweet that the attack on his former rival posed “a serious threat for our democracy.”
“Were not trying to elect saints,” added Sebastien Chenu, a spokesman for the far-right National Rally party, normally an unforgiving political opponent of Macrons LREM.
Very interesting to see how Paris reacts to its own Weiner moment – with outrage at the intrusion on a politician's privacy. Mayor Anne Hidalgo calls for 'respect for the private life', while Griveaux's former rival says the revelation is "a grave menace for our democracy". https://t.co/Ox3VEEDoix
— Benjamin Ramm (@BenjaminRamm) February 14, 2020
The reactions offered a striking reminder of the longstanding view in France that politicians private lives are largely off limits. But that assumption is increasingly being challenged, said Cautrès, noting that politicians have themselves helped blur the line between public and private.
“It is difficult today to draw a clear line between public and private life in the social-mediaRead More – Source