France’s Macron says has ‘no regret’ over defending Depardieu

France’s Macron says has ‘no regret’ over defending Depardieu

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that he had “no regret” over defending screen icon Gerard Depardieu’s presumption of innocence after the actor was charged with rape and accused of sexual harassment.

“If I have one regret, it’s to not have said enough how important the words of women who are victims of this violence are,” he said at a rare press conference after a cabinet reshuffle last week.

Depardieu, 75, was charged with rape in 2020 and has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women, allegations he denies.

Outrage at the actor’s behaviour peaked after the release last month of previously unseen footage from a 2018 trip to North Korea during which Depardieu made repeated sexual comments in the presence of a female translator, including about a young girl riding a horse.

Asked about the possibility of stripping the actor of a top state award in December, Macron said he refused to “participate in a manhunt”, causing an uproar among politicians and feminists.

At the press conference on Tuesday, Macron also defended himself against accusations he did not name any women to top offices of state in the new cabinet he unveiled last week.

He said he had given female ministers some of the most important tasks.

“When I said that health, schools and higher education were at the heart of my priorities for public policy, I note that you have a woman who is minister of health, work and solidarity, a woman who is minister of national education… and a woman who is minister for higher education and research,” he said.

Catherine Vautrin, a former supporter of conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy, now heads a super-ministry spanning health, labour and solidarity.

Amelie Oudea-Castera has had the education and youth briefs bolted on to her former responsibility for sport, just months ahead of the Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

Sylvie Retailleau remained minister of higher education.

But women in two key jobs were replaced by men.

Gabriel Attal became the country’s youngest prime minister last week, replacing Elisabeth Borne — the country’s second-ever and longest-serving female head of government — after she slid in the polls.

Longtime Macron supporter Stephane Sejourne became foreign minister, replacing his female predecessor Catherine Colonna, who handed over with a remark on the importance of “equality between women and men” at the heart of power.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti and Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu remained in place.


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