Sex scandal forces Emmanuel Macron's closest lieutenant to scrap bid to become Paris mayor after video shows the married father pleasuring himself while 'sexting' a womanby Peter Allen
- Benjamin Griveaux bemoaned 'ignoble attacks' as he quit the mayoral race today
- Explicit messages emerged between the father-of-two and a young woman
- The messages and video were published by Russian dissident Pyotr Pavlensky
- Macron had lobbied for Griveaux to be the candidate of his centrist LREM party
Emmanuel Macron's party was thrown into crisis today after his candidate for mayor of Paris quit the race in a sex scandal.
Benjamin Griveaux withdrew his candidacy after an obscene video emerged showing the married father-of-two pleasuring himself while 'sexting' a young woman.
Russian dissident artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who published the video, also shared explicit messages between Griveaux and the woman to expose his 'hypocrisy' after he spoke about his family values on the campaign trail.
Griveaux, 42, who is regarded as one of Macron's closest allies, bemoaned 'ignoble attacks endangering my private life' as he quit the race today.
His departure is an embarrassment for Macron who had lobbied for Griveaux to be his party's candidate despite a groundswell of support for eccentric maths genius Cedric Villani.
It leaves Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party without a candidate just 30 days before the first round of voting.
'I have decided to withdraw my candidacy from Paris municipal elections,' former government spokesman Griveaux said today.
'This decision will cost me, but my priorities are very clear - they are first of all my family.'
Discussing the explicit video, Mr Griveaux said: 'A new stage was crossed yesterday, a website relayed ignoble attacks endangering my private life.
'My family does not deserve this. No one should ever be subjected to such abuse.'
Griveaux and his wife, Julia Minkowski, had given a number of interviews stressing his desire to become a 'mayor for children and parents.'
In October he said: 'When I told my wife that I intended to embark on the Parisian campaign, it was obviously with her support, otherwise it would not be possible.
'I love her very much. I would not do what I do if she wasn't there.'
Russian dissident artist Pyotr Pavlensky said he had published the messages to expose Griveaux's alleged hypocrisy.
'He positions himself as a candidate who lives only by loyalty, love and concern for the happiness of his family,' Pavelensky said.
'However, in addition to the [obscene] video, he writes in correspondence with a young girl that family and children are a prison.'
A presidential aide said Macron was 'deeply disappointed' by the news.
Macron's party had backed Griveaux for the mayoralty last year, overlooking eccentric mathematician Cedric Villani.
Villani was expelled from the party last year and is running as an independent.
Macron had tried to help Griveaux's campaign last month by summoning Villani to the Elysee Palace and pleading with him to quit the race, but to no avail.
It is unclear whether LREM will now field a new candidate or be forced to back Villani in a humiliating climbdown.
Griveaux's allies attributed the video to 'anonymous enemies, possibly including the Russians,' said one.
Griveaux was one of the earliest members of Macron's new party and was elected to France's National Assembly in 2017.
He served several months as a junior finance minister later that year.
Parisians will go to the polls for the first round of voting on March 15, with current Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo running for a second term.
The top two candidates will progress to a run-off in the second round of voting on March 22.
Opinion polls last year had suggested a tight race was on the cards between Hidalgo and Griveaux.