France's Macron Faces Backlash Over Appointment Of New Ministers

Jul 11, 2020
Originally published on July 11, 2020 7:28 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Emmanuel Macron of France made two controversial appointments to his Cabinet this week - one is a critic of the #MeToo movement, the other is under investigation for rape and sexual assault. Rebecca Rosman reports from Paris.

REBECCA ROSMAN, BYLINE: Elodie Tuaillon-Hibon was working at her desk late Monday evening when she got an unexpected text from a friend.

ELODIE TUAILLON-HIBON: Oh, my God. I was so shocked. I thought, impossible.

ROSMAN: But the radio news confirmed that Gerald Darmanin had just been appointed France's interior minister. He is under investigation for rape and sexual assault. Tuaillon-Hibon represents the woman making the accusation. Darmanin acknowledges having a sexual relationship with his accuser in 2009 but insists it was consensual.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER JEAN CASTEX: (Speaking French).

ROSMAN: France's new prime minister, Jean Castex, said he took total responsibility for the appointment, saying in France, everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Tuaillon-Hibon says Castex and President Macron have missed the bigger picture.

TUAILLON-HIBON: He's maybe innocent under the law, but the law does not say that man has to become the minister of the police

ROSMAN: Darmanin's new job puts him in charge of the people investigating him.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in French).

ROSMAN: Thousands joined protests about the nomination, as well as the appointment of an outspoken critic of the #MeToo movement - Eric Dupond-Moretti as the new justice minister.

Caroline de Haas is a leading feminist activist and founder of the women's rights group Nous Toutes. She says both appointments are examples of Macron's disregard for the women's movement, despite him declaring gender equality and ending sexual violence as priorities of his presidential term.

CAROLIN DE HAAS: Emmanuel Macron, he doesn't care about our problem about violence against women. So we will do the job ourselves.

ROSMAN: De Haas says she doesn't expect either minister to resign. But things might be changing in France, says Lenaig Bredoux of the French investigative website Mediapart. She cites the case of French politician and former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was accused of assaulting a maid in a New York City hotel room.

LENAIG BREDOUX: In 2011, you see reactions from politicians, from journalists, from public figures in France saying that the rape accusations were false, that it was maybe the wish of a woman to get well known, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

ROSMAN: The public is changing its attitude, Bredoux says, but the government is still trying to catch up.

For NPR News, I'm Rebecca Rosman in Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUKE HOWARD'S "THE MAIN SEQUENCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.