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

Macron said the actor ‘makes France proud’ after a documentary showed that 16 women have accused Depardieu of harassing, groping or sexually assaulting them

Gerard Depardieu
French actor Gerard Depardieu attends the 'Der Geschmack der kleinen Dinge (Umami)' premiere at Cinema Paris on January 12, 2023 in Berlin, Germany.Tristar Media (Getty Images)

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 on 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 come 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.

They also come as a Spanish journalist and writer recently filed a complaint against Depardieu, who she says sexually abused her during an interview in Paris in 1995, Spanish police said Thursday.

Asked about such 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procedure concerning Depardieu’s prestigious Order of the Legion of Honor, which could lead to the award getting rescinded.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 alleged 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.

Another alleged victim emerged in Spain, journalist and writer Ruth Baza who filed a complaint last week in the southern city of Torremolinos that the Spanish police said will now be shared with French authorities.

Baza, 51, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday that when she was 23, she interviewed the actor in Paris for the magazine Cinemanía. She said that in her police complaint she explained how at the end of the interview the actor started kissing her face and neck, and touched her between her legs, behavior she said that police have classified as rape. Baza said she felt “truly paralyzed” by Depardieu. “I was trapped.”

Baza said she had buried the matter in her mind but wrote it all down in detail in her diary at the time. She said the whole episode flooded back last April when she read about accusations made by 13 women against Depardieu.

She said that since then she has been in “a true nightmare” and decided she had to speak out.

“Taking the decision to go to the police has been the very last decision to try to go on with my life and leave this story in the hands of others and just try to help others who are in my very same situation and who are not able to talk,” Baza said. She said that she has every intention of testifying to French authorities if needed.

Another complaint was filed in France in September by comedian Helene Darras for alleged sexual assault. Darras accused Depardieu of touching her bottom when she was a young extra for the 2008 film Disco.

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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