'Don't erase Gérard Depardieu': Artists denounce the 'lynching' of actor accused of rape

Leading French figures from the world of culture have denounced the "lynching" of Gérard Depardieu, the actor who is under investigation for rape and at the heart of a scandal following a documentary broadcast on the France 2 programme “Complément d'enquête.”

More than fifty actors, directors, singers and writers have signed an article in French newspaper Le Figaro defending Depardieu, who was recently shown in the aforementioned documentary making a series of misogynistic and insulting remarks about women, including sexual remarks about an underage girl.

The signatories call for the presumption of innocence to be respected, and for the actor not to be boycotted. They say that "to deprive oneself of this immense actor would be a tragedy, a defeat. The death of art. Our own.”

The celebrities include director Bertrand Blier, actors Charlotte Rampling, Nathalie Baye, Carole Bouquet, Jacques Weber, Pierre Richard and Gérard Darmon, as well as singers Carla Bruni and Jacques Dutronc.

The tribune in Le Figaro reads: "When Gérard Depardieu is attacked in this way, it is art that is being attacked. Gérard Depardieu is probably the greatest of all actors. The last sacred monster of cinema. We can no longer remain silent in the face of the lynching that is being heaped on him, in the face of the torrent of hatred that is being poured out on his person, without nuance, in the most complete amalgam and with contempt for a presumption of innocence that he would have enjoyed, like everyone else, if he were not the giant of the cinema that he is."

Macron's controversial defence

These artists are backed by French president Emmanuel Macron, who spoke out publicly in defence of Gérard Depardieu, saying that Depardieu had become the target of a "manhunt".

"You will never see me participate in a manhunt," Macron told France 5 broadcaster last week, when asked about possibly stripping the actor of the prestigious state award, the Legion of Honour.

"He made France, our great authors, our great characters known throughout the world (...) he makes France proud".

Macron's stance has been met with anger by those who say he is undermining the cause of eradicating violence against women.

Olivier Faure, the head of the Socialist Party, posted a message on social media accusing Macron of not taking his election promises seriously.

"Violence against women is a major issue of Macron's mandate ... This president does not believe in any of his promises," said Faure.

Environmentalist MP Sandrine Rousseau also spoke out on social media, saying: "Emmanuel Macron’s words on the subject of Depardieu are once again an insult to the movement to free the speech of victims of sexual violence.”

Elsewhere, Generation.s Feministe, a feminist collective, said Macron's comments were "an insult" to all women who had suffered sexual violence, "first and foremost those who accused Depardieu".