PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron suffered a setback on Friday when one of his closest lieutenants, Benjamin Griveaux, pulled out of the race to become mayor of Paris after it was alleged he sent sexual images to a woman who is not his wife.
“I have decided to withdraw my candidacy from the municipal election,” said Griveaux.
“For more than a year my family and I were subjected to defamatory, false statements, anonymous attacks, the disclosure of private and stolen conversations and death threats,” he said.
He said a new level had been reached on Thursday with “websites and social networks carrying ignoble attacks about my private life.” A Russian dissident artist, Pyotr Pavlensky, published screenshots of an online chat which he said was between Griveaux and a woman who is not his wife.
Griveaux, 42, is one of the “Macron boys” — the clique that helped propel the former investment banker to the Elysee Palace.
He started in politics as an adviser to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund who in 2011 was charged with sexual assault on a maid in a New York hotel.
Prosecutors dropped the charges, and Strauss-Kahn said the sex was consensual.
Griveaux was central to Macron’s bid to control the French capital and build a local power base for his party in mayoral elections next month.
His mayoral bid though was already struggling, with opinion polls showing him in third place.
Macron’s LREM party had chosen Griveaux to represent it in the Paris mayoral campaign over Cedric Villani, an eccentric mathematician.
It remained unclear whether Macron’s party would now rally behind Villani, the rebel lawmaker who was expelled from the LREM last month, or field another candidate.