La Republique En Marche Party member and Paris mayoral candidate Benjamin Griveaux leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on December 5, 2018. File Photo by Etienne Laurent/EPA EFE

Paris mayoral candidate quits race amid sex video scandal


Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Benjamin Griveaux, a candidate for mayor of Paris who'd been endorsed by French President Emmanuel Macron, withdrew from the race Friday amid a scandal involving an extramarital affair and sexual images posted online.

Griveaux, a former Macron spokesman and close ally of the president, announced his withdrawal after a Russian dissident artist posted screenshots from a video chat between the candidate and a woman who is not his wife.

A member of Macron's La Republique En Marche Party, Griveaux did not dispute the authenticity of the images but denounced the invasion of his privacy following a meeting with advisers at his campaign headquarters.

"My family does not deserve this," he said in a video announcing his decision. "Nobody should ever be subjected to this kind of abuse.

"For more than a year, my family and I have been subjected to defamatory remarks, lies, rumors, anonymous attacks, the revelation of stolen private conversations and death threats. As if all this was not enough, yesterday a new level was reached."

Pyotr Pavlensky, the Russian artist who lives in France, said he posted the images Wednesday because he wanted to "denounce the hypocrisy" of Griveaux's emphasis on "family values."

"He is someone who constantly relies on family values, who says that he wants to be the mayor of families and always quotes as an example his wife and children," Pavlensky told French newspaper Libération. "But he does just the opposite. I don't mind people having the sexuality they want ... but they have to be honest."

En Marche Party leader Stanislas Geurini said members would select a new candidate by the end of Friday.

The sudden resignation was a blow to Macron, who's hoping his party takes control of France's largest city away from Socialist Party incumbent Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Former En Marche member Cedric Villani is also in the race as an independent. He was expelled from Macron's party after he refused to stand down in favor of Griveaux.