French President Emmanuel Macron’s former top¬†security aide admitted he “made a mistake” in attending a demonstration where¬†he was filmed roughing up May Day protesters, in an interview published¬†Thursday.
But Alexandre Benalla also denounced what he said was a “desire to get at¬†the president” over the scandal.
“I feel like I have done something really stupid. And have made a¬†mistake… I should never have gone to that demonstration as an observer, then¬†
I should have held back” he told the newspaper Le Monde.
Le Monde had last week published smartphone videos of Benalla hitting one¬†protester and violently wrestling another — while wearing a police helmet and¬†armband — during the May 1 demonstration in Paris.
Revelations that top officials in Macron’s office knew about the incident¬†have sparked furious opposition claims of a cover-up in the worst scandal¬†
since the 40-year-old office took office last year.
Two parliamentary committees have been grilling top aides to Macron over¬†the affair, with the president’s chief of staff Alexis Kohler the latest to¬†take the stand on Thursday.
Kohler, speaking before a Senate committee, acknowledged that officials’¬†initial decision to punish Benalla with a two-week suspicion may “appear¬†insufficient” but at the time it seemed “proportionate”.
Benalla was charged Sunday with assault and impersonating a police officer.
For his part Macron on Thursday continued to play down the significance of the scandal calling it “a storm in a tea cup” (tempete dans un verre d’eau).
“I said what I said to say, which was that I think it’s a storm in a tea cup” the president told¬†¬†AFP on a visit to the village of Campan in southwest France.¬†
Earlier this week Macron told MPs from his¬†Republic on the¬†Move (LREM) party¬†“What happened on May 1 is terrible, serious, and for me it was a¬†disappointment and a betrayal.”
“The only person responsible for this affair is me,” he said, in an angry¬†intervention that appeared to take aim at parliament’s grilling of his top¬†aides as well as press coverage of the affair.
“If they’re looking for someone to hold responsible, he’s right in front of¬†you. They can come and get me.”¬†
Macron resumed his offensive against the media Wednesday evening during a¬†visit to Bagneres-de-Bigorre in the Pyrenees.
“You have in recent days said a lot of nonsense about salaries,¬†privileges,” in the Benalla case, he told journalists.
“It was all fake,” Macron said.