Macron Ally Withdraws Paris Mayoral Bid After Sexual Videos Emerge

PARIS — A member of President Emmanuel Macron’s party on Friday withdrew from the race for Paris mayor less than 48 hours after private sexual videos he allegedly sent to an unidentified woman were published online by a Russian dissident artist who was granted political asylum in France.

The withdrawal of the candidate, Benjamin Griveaux, who blamed “vile attacks” against him and his family, was one more blow to Mr. Macron’s efforts to rally his party for coming municipal elections across the country.

Mr. Griveaux announced he was dropping out after the videos began circulating publicly on Wednesday evening. The newspaper Libération reported that the videos were first circulated online by Pyotr Pavlensky, a Russian performance artist who has become notorious in Europe for his dramatic acts of protest.

Mr. Pavlensky told Libération that he published the videos to expose Mr. Griveaux as hypocritical because the candidate invoked “family values” and “always mentioned his wife and children as an example” during the campaign.

“I don’t mind people having the sexuality that they want,” Mr. Pavlensky said, “But he wants to be the head of the city and he is lying to voters.”

It was not clear how Mr. Pavlensky obtained the videos, which purport to show a private text conversation that included sexual videos sent from Mr. Griveaux to an unidentified woman.

Mr. Pavlensky, who received asylum in France in 2017 after criticizing the Russian state, could not immediately be reached for comment.

A grim-looking Mr. Griveaux said in a video statement on Friday morning, “It has gone too far.”

He did not explicitly refer to the videos, but said that for the past year his family had been “subjected to defamatory statements, lies, anonymous attacks, the disclosure of stolen private conversations, as well as death threats.”

Mr. Griveaux said that a “new stage” had been reached after a “website and social media” began circulating “vile attacks” involving his private life.

“My family does not deserve this,” he added. “No one, fundamentally, should be subjected to such violence.”

Mr. Griveaux, 42, a married father of three, had served as Mr. Macron’s government spokesman and is one of his main allies. He was a top Macron aide during the 2017 presidential campaign and was elected that year to the lower house of Parliament as a member of La République en Marche, Mr. Macron’s party.

He left his job as spokesman in March 2019 to prepare for his Paris mayoral bid.

The end of Mr. Griveaux’s campaign has all but dashed Mr. Macron’s hopes of taking the city of Paris, long dominated by the French left, away from Anne Hidalgo, the current Socialist mayor. Mr. Griveaux was central to Mr. Macron’s efforts: Over the past few months, he attempted to build a local power base in the French capital and rally support among local politicians from both the left and right.

Mr. Griveaux, however, had several hurdles to win the post.

He was facing a dissident candidacy by Cédric Villani, a mathematician and former lawmaker in La République en Marche who had been kicked out of the party after he refused to stand down despite losing the nomination.

In addition, Mr. Griveaux’s poll numbers were dropping, even though Paris, where Mr. Macron and his party have scored well in past elections, represented one of the president’s best chances for taking over a major French city.

The publication of the videos was swiftly and widely condemned in France. And Mr. Griveaux’s withdrawal announcement prompted dozens of people across the political spectrum to express their support for Mr. Griveaux and to denounce what some called “revolting” attacks.

In France, the private lives of politicians and candidates are widely seen as being out of bounds and irrelevant in political debates and elections.

Aurélie Filippetti, a former minister of culture under the Socialist government of President François Hollande, wrote on Twitter that “what happened against” Mr. Griveaux was “disgusting.”

“How far will we go in shame and abomination?” she added.

Mr. Villani, the dissident candidate, said on Twitter that the publication of sexual materials on Mr. Griveaux was “a serious threat to our democracy.”

And Ms. Hidalgo, who is running for a second term, released a statement calling for a “respect of privacy and respect of individuals.” She added that Paris residents deserved “a dignified debate.”

Constant Méheut contributed reporting.

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