March 4th, 2024

France’s president is accused of siding with Depardieu as actor faces sexual misconduct allegations

By Sylvie Corbet, The Associated Press on December 21, 2023.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, welcomes Czech Republic's President Petr Pavel before their talks Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023 at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS (AP) – Women’s rights activists criticized French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday for appearing to take sides with actor Gérard Depardieu by saying the film star who is facing sexual misconduct allegations “makes France proud.”

Speaking Wednesday night on TV channel France 5, Macron described himself as a “big admirer” of a “great actor.” Macron added: “He makes France proud.”

Macron’s comments in a televised interview came after a documentary that aired earlier this month said 16 women have accused Depardieu of harassing, groping or sexually assaulting them. The France-2 report also showed the actor making obscene remarks and gestures during a 2018 trip to North Korea.

Asked about the latest accusations against Depardieu, Macron said he believed in the presumption of innocence and the judicial process. “You will never see me participate in a manhunt,” the French leader said.

Macron also criticized his culture minister’s decision to launch a disciplinary procedure concerning Depardieu’s prestigious Order of the Legion of Honor, which could lead the award getting rescinded. He said Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak went “a bit too far.”

The Legion of Honor is not “a moral tool” and should not be removed “based on a documentary,” Macron said.

Depardieu, 74, was put under investigation in December 2020 for rape and sexual assault following allegations in 2018 from actor Charlotte Arnould, who said the crimes took place at Depardieu’s home. The investigation is ongoing.

Women rights activists on Thursday vigorously denounced Macron’s comments.

Michelle Dayan, president of Lawyers 4 Women, said that as a lawyer and a citizen, she also believed strongly in the presumption of innocence. “Yet it mustn’t be used as a pretext not to listen to women who say they are victims of abuses,” she said.

Speaking on France Info news broadcaster, Dayan said “violence against women starts there “¦ in the image of women that is conveyed” through Depardieu’s shocking remarks.

Activist group Osez le feminisme denounced on X, formerly Twitter, “one more confirmation that, definitively, Emmanuel Macron doesn’t live in the same world as us.”

“We, the prey, are facing a man (Depardieu) who describes himself as a “˜great hunter,’ yet who, in the words of the president, becomes the victim of a “˜manhunt,'” the group posted.

Anne-Cécile Mailfert, president of the Women’s Foundation, said on BFM TV that Macron’s comments were “very serious” because “he is judging women who filed a complaint, women who spoke out “¦ He’s taking sides.”

Former French President Francois Hollande also chimed in to counter his successor.

“No, we are not proud,” Hollande said on the France Inter radio network.

What was expected from the president was to “speak about women” who see in Depardieu’s remarks “violence, domination and contempt,” he said.

In October, Depardieu published an open letter in the French newspaper Le Figaro that said, “I want to tell you the truth. I have never, ever abused a woman.”

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