PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday French film icon Gerard Depardieu, accused of rape, had become the target of a "manhunt" as the actor faces fresh scrutiny over sexist comments.
“You will never see me participate in a manhunt,” Macron told the France 5 broadcaster when asked about possibly stripping the actor of a state award.
“I hate that kind of thing,” he added.
The award, France’s Legion of Honour, which Depardieu received in 1996, “is not a moral tool”, Macron said.
Last week, French Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak said the actor’s behaviour shamed France, noting that he might be stripped of the Legion which is the country’s top award.
Depardieu, an icon of French cinema with more than 200 films to his name, was charged with rape in 2020 and has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women.
A television report released this month that included footage of him making sexist comments, has thrown the allegations back in the limelight and reignited a debate about sexism in French cinema.
Broadcaster France 2 showed the actor on a 2018 trip to North Korea repeatedly making explicit sexual comments in the presence of a female interpreter and sexualising a small girl riding a horse.
Depardieu in October rejected all accusations against him, and since the documentary aired his family has denounced an “unprecedented conspiracy” against him.
Over the weekend, a Belgian municipality stripped Depardieu of the title of honorary citizen, several days after the Canadian province of Quebec revoked its top honour over his “scandalous” comments against women.
In 2017, Macron withdrew the Legion of Honour from Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein after a series of accusations of sexual harassment and rape.