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Macron Comments On Video Showing His Bodyguard Beating A Protester


French President Emmanuel Macron is facing a scandal. A video has surfaced of his security aide getting violent with protesters in Paris while off duty. After days of silence, the French president is finally speaking out. Here's reporter Jake Cigainero in Paris.

JAKE CIGAINERO, BYLINE: The video shows Alexandre Benalla, identified by Le Monde newspaper as Macron's 26-year-old security aide, wearing a police helmet and attacking protesters during May 1 Labor Day demonstrations. Officials say Benalla had permission to only accompany and observe police operations on his day off and was not authorized to intervene. Benalla served as Macron's personal bodyguard since the 2017 presidential campaign. But Macron, who is already seen by many as a distant president, finally addressed the incident after several days of silence.



CIGAINERO: He's speaking to parliamentarians from his party. Macron called Benalla's actions treason and betrayal. But ultimately, he said, the buck stops with him, and as president, he is solely responsible. But the French president's long silence has been suspect, and opposition parties accuse the government of a cover up. Benjamin Haddad, a European politics researcher who was involved in the Macron campaign, says the scandal also contradicts the president's promise to break with establishment politics.

BENJAMIN HADDAD: French see this scandal from relics of practices the past where the president decides to rely on the friend, on the political activist, to ensure his security, which should have been done by a regular policeman.

CIGAINERO: Benalla and another member of Macron's party are now at the center of four separate investigations by the prosecutor, parliamentary committees and police. Three high-ranking police have also been indicted after allegedly giving security footage to Benalla to prove his innocence after the story came out. Some government officials, including the prime minister, are under scrutiny for how the case was handled. Benalla was first suspended but has since been fired from his job.


PATRICK STRZODA: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: Patrick Strzoda, Macron's chief of staff, told a National Assembly committee he didn't report Benalla to the Department of Justice at the time because he said there wasn't enough evidence. Haddad says Macron risks endangering his aggressive agenda of reforms in the coming months and possibly years if he doesn't soon show he's sincere about transparency in the Benalla case.

For NPR News, I'm Jake Cigainero in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.