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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has distanced himself from his government’s decision to consider stripping actor Gérard Depardieu of his Légion d’honneur in the wake of allegations of sexual assault.
Last week, France’s Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malek said that Depardieu, who has starred in more than 200 films, most famously “Green Card” and “Cyrano de Bergerac”, had “shamed France” after fresh footage emerged of him making obscene and sexist comments. The French actor was charged with rape in 2020 and faces a dozen accusations of sexual harassment or assault, which he denies.
According to the culture minister, a disciplinary proceeding has been launched which may lead to the removal and suspension of Depardieu’s Légion d’honneur, or Legion of honor, which is the highest French order of merit.
But Macron is unhappy with what appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to a recently released documentary about the French actor, according to one of his close allies, confirming a report from the weekly JDD that the president was “surprised” by the move. Macron “worries that media justice is taking over from constitutional justice,” said this ally, who was granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic.
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“He thinks that political figures shouldn’t encourage this movement,” he said. An aide of the president said that Macron had not been informed of the decision to review Depardieu’s Légion d’honneur, even though the president is the top-ranking officer of the merit’s order.
Macron’s response is in keeping with his past approaches to accusations of sexual violence against high-profile figures. Following rape accusations against former minister and TV personality Nicolas Hulot, the French president said the priority should be “the efficiency of [the] justice system” and that the case should be treated without “complacency” and without “[launching] an inquisition.”
The French president notoriously dislikes taking decisions in the midst of a media storm or under pressure from others.
In the documentary “The Fall of the Ogre” by TV channel France 2, the 74-year-old Depardieu is filmed making obscene remarks about an interpreter and sexualizing a young girl riding a pony during a trip to North Korea in 2018. The film also scrutinizes interviews Depardieu gave in the 1970s and 1990s during which he said he took part in rapes — comments which he later retracted.
The French film star also faces an ongoing investigation that he raped the young French actress Charlotte Arnould in 2018, an allegation the actor has also denied. Over a dozen women have come forward and accused Depardieu of molesting them on set or in other locations between 2004 and 2022, according to an investigation by French website Mediapart.
On Sunday, the family of Depardieu denounced an “unprecedented conspiracy” against him, in a letter published by the JDD. “Using Gérard’s verbal provocations to back up other (to date unsubstantiated) accusations is extremely dishonest,” the family wrote.