French PM says Macron bodyguard case 'not a state scandal'

By John Irish PARIS (Reuters) - France's prime minister on Tuesday struck back at opposition criticism of President Emmanuel Macron's response to a video showing his top bodyguard assaulting May Day protesters, saying it was an isolated incident and not a state scandal. Macron is under fire in the biggest crisis of his tenure after footage emerged of the head of his security detail, Alexandre Benalla, hitting a male protester and dragging away a woman, while off duty and wearing a riot helmet and police tags. Critics say Macron's office failed to properly punish Benalla or refer him promptly to judicial authorities, and point to the president's handling of the case as a sign he has lost touch with ordinary people since taking office 14 months ago.

Reuters July 25, 2018 01:06:05 IST
French PM says Macron bodyguard case 'not a state scandal'

French PM says Macron bodyguard case not a state scandal

By John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) - France's prime minister on Tuesday struck back at opposition criticism of President Emmanuel Macron's response to a video showing his top bodyguard assaulting May Day protesters, saying it was an isolated incident and not a state scandal.

Macron is under fire in the biggest crisis of his tenure after footage emerged of the head of his security detail, Alexandre Benalla, hitting a male protester and dragging away a woman, while off duty and wearing a riot helmet and police tags.

Critics say Macron's office failed to properly punish Benalla or refer him promptly to judicial authorities, and point to the president's handling of the case as a sign he has lost touch with ordinary people since taking office 14 months ago.

In heated exchanges in parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe sought to defend the government against calls by the opposition conservatives for a vote of no-confidence.

"An isolated incident carried out by this person ... does not constitute a state scandal," he said after fending off several lawmakers on the issue.

"I understand that there can be questions about the possible proportionality of the decisions taken, but the speed of the decision is not questionable," he said, referring to the initial suspension imposed on Benalla by the Elysee. "Nothing was hidden, nothing was left out," he added.

Macron came under further pressure on Monday when the interior minister and a police chief said the presidency told them in May it would deal with the bodyguard.

Benalla had initially been suspended for 15 days and brought back into Macron's entourage. The French leader fired him on Friday, after the story broke in Le Monde newspaper, and Benalla was placed under investigation on Sunday.

Macron's chief of staff Patrick Strzoda told a parliamentary probe on Tuesday that he had taken the decision to suspend Benalla after the incident and that Macron was informed while on a trip to Australia.

"I took it alone in my soul and conscience," Strzoda told lawmakers.

UNITED FRONT

Benalla has been at Macron's side during numerous public and private events, from the 2017 presidential campaign to the celebration of France's World Cup victory in Paris.

Strzoda denied French media reports that Benalla had been handed a raft of privileges and benefits going beyond what was usual for his position.

Opposition lawmakers have launched a united offensive against Macron, fuelled by their grilling of Interior Minister Gerard Collomb on Monday who said he had taken no action after the presidency assured him that Benalla would be punished.

"The government has failed and must be held responsible in front of parliament," Christian Jacob, the head of The Republicans opposition party in the lower house, told reporters.

A vote of no-confidence is unlikely to bring down Macron's government as it has a solid majority in parliament.

But according to an IPSOS poll on Tuesday, the first since the story broke, Macron has seen his popularity fall to 32 percent, down four points since June, his lowest level since September 2017.

A second poll by Elabe showed that 80 percent of French people were shocked by the Benalla affair.

(Additional reporting by Sophie Louet and Jean-Baptiste Vey; writing by John Irish; editing by Michel Rose and Ros Russell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

Oil rises 2% as OPEC complies with production cuts
Business

Oil rises 2% as OPEC complies with production cuts

By Jessica Resnick-Ault NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices strengthened on Wednesday, as OPEC and its allies were seen complying with a pact to cut oil supply in September, even as concerns loomed that recovery in fuel demand will be stalled by soaring global coronavirus cases. Early in the day crude was boosted by a bullish stock market. Even as equities whipsawed on pandemic worries, oil stayed higher, buoyed by expectations that OPEC could staunch a supply glut

Tesla's back-to-back price cuts bring sticker on U.S. Model S below $70,000
Business

Tesla's back-to-back price cuts bring sticker on U.S. Model S below $70,000

By Tina Bellon and C Nivedita (Reuters) - Tesla Inc will further cut the price of its Model S "Long Range" sedan in the United States to $69,420, the electric carmaker's chief executive, Elon Musk, announced in a tweet https://bit.ly/2H0JCP0 on Wednesday. The anticipated drop marks the second time this week Tesla has cut the price for the high-end sedan, following a 4% cut of the Model S's price in the United States on Tuesday to $71,990.

Trump cites teenaged son's bout with coronavirus in calling for schools to reopen
World

Trump cites teenaged son's bout with coronavirus in calling for schools to reopen

By Jeff Mason DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Under siege over his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump on Wednesday cited what he said was his son's mild bout of the virus as a reason why American schools should reopen as soon as possible. Trump made the comment about his son, Barron, as the president swept into Iowa on a mission to shore up support in battleground states that he won in 2016 but is in danger of losing to Democrat Joe Biden barely three weeks before the election. First lady Melania Trump announced in a statement earlier in the day that the virus that struck both her and her husband had also infected their 14-year-old son