French President Emmanuel Macron’s former topÂ security aide admitted he “made a mistake” in attending a demonstration whereÂ he was filmed roughing up May Day protesters, in an interview publishedÂ Thursday.
But Alexandre Benalla also denounced what he said was a “desire to get atÂ the president” over the scandal.
“I feel like I have done something really stupid. And have made aÂ mistake… I should never have gone to that demonstration as an observer, thenÂ
I should have held back” he told the newspaper Le Monde.
Le Monde had last week published smartphone videos of Benalla hitting oneÂ protester and violently wrestling another — while wearing a police helmet andÂ armband — during the May 1 demonstration in Paris.
Revelations that top officials in Macron’s office knew about the incidentÂ have sparked furious opposition claims of a cover-up in the worst scandalÂ
since the 40-year-old office took office last year.
Two parliamentary committees have been grilling top aides to Macron overÂ the affair, with the president’s chief of staff Alexis Kohler the latest toÂ take the stand on Thursday.
Kohler, speaking before a Senate committee, acknowledged that officials’Â initial decision to punish Benalla with a two-week suspicion may “appearÂ 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 toldÂ Â AFP on a visit to the village of Campan in southwest France.Â
Earlier this week Macron told MPs from hisÂ Republic on theÂ Move (LREM) partyÂ “What happened on May 1 is terrible, serious, and for me it was aÂ disappointment and a betrayal.”
“The only person responsible for this affair is me,” he said, in an angryÂ intervention that appeared to take aim at parliament’s grilling of his topÂ aides as well as press coverage of the affair.
“If they’re looking for someone to hold responsible, he’s right in front ofÂ you. They can come and get me.”Â
Macron resumed his offensive against the media Wednesday evening during aÂ visit to Bagneres-de-Bigorre in the Pyrenees.
“You have in recent days said a lot of nonsense about salaries,Â privileges,” in the Benalla case, he told journalists.
“It was all fake,” Macron said.