A senior French cabinet minister and close ally of President Emmanuel Macron resigned yesterday after reports accused him of extravagant state-funded lobster dinners and misusing public housing in a blow to the centrist government.
Francois de Rugy, who was named environment minister in September 2018, announced his departure after a week of revelations from the left-wing website Mediapart. “The attacks and media lynching targeting my family force me to take the necessary step back,” said de Rugy, who was number two in the government after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
In his first reaction to the revelations, Macron said he had asked Prime Minister Philippe for “full clarity.” De Rugy joined Macron early in his successful bid for the presidency in 2017 and was rewarded with a series of plum jobs including parliament speaker and latterly environment minister. But the former Green campaigner’s ability to hang on to his job took a blow on Monday evening when Macron failed to give his full backing while on a trip to Serbia.
Mediapart has published pictures of de Rugy and his journalist wife enjoying lavish champagne-and-lobster dinners and a Valentine’s Day meal while he was speaker of parliament in 2017 and in 2018.
The website alleged the events at the expense of taxpayers were largely social, while de Rugy contends they were part of his work representing the National Assembly. Mediapart also revealed that de Rugy had benefited from an apartment near his hometown of Nantes in western France that was rented at a preferential rate intended for low-income workers.
Other reports have referred to a 500-euro hairdryer bought by de Rugy’s wife at public expense and a renovation of their government apartment at a cost of 63,000 euros (70,000 dollars).