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French President Emmanuel Macron has struggled to restore peace with yellow vest protesters and shake off accusations of elitism for months. Ahead of the 14 July, he received a new blow as the French media reported that current Environment Minister Francois de Rugy might have fancied a “Maria Antoinette” lifestyle at the public’s expense.

Environment Minister Francois de Rugy has come under fire after investigative website Mediapart published a series of reports suggesting that he exploited public funds for luxurious dinners and the lavish refurbishment of an official residence when he served as parliament’s speaker.

The number two of the French government after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe due to his minister of state title allegedly hosted about a dozen of exquisite parties with lobster, champagne and vintage wines in 2017-2018 before he assumed his current position in the French government. According to the outlet, they were funded by taxpayers’ money but had little connection with de Rugy’s work and were essentially parties, held by his wife, working at celebrity magazine Gala.

His wife’s spending also came under scrutiny in a report by another outlet, Le Parisien. According to the French daily, she bought herself a $561 golden hairdryer using public funds.

The couple also allegedly had their townhouse in one of Paris’ prestigious districts renovated for $71,000, as Mediapart suggested in a separate report. Apart from this, its most recent report said that he rented a council apartment near Nantes in western France. The rent for it was subsidised although he was not allowed to enjoy this social housing due to a “far higher” salary.

De Rugy publicly denied the accusations against him and his wife. Speaking about the Nantes flat, he insisted that he was not aware that the flat was social housing as the landlord and letting agency had not shared this information. In his interview with the French broadcaster BFM, he defended his dinners saying they were “informal working dinners” and disputed the reports on their alleged menu. He debated that “never paid more than 30 euros for a bottle of wine”, could not eat lobsters over “shellfish allergy” and did avoid champagne, which causes “a headache”.

He also stood up for his wife, slamming the reporters for portraying her as some a kind of “Marie-Antoinette”. He suggested that someone sought to do harm to her for some reason and branded himself as a victim of “a machine launched to attack me.” He also owed to pay back “every euro disputed” but refused to step down.

“I have absolutely no reason to resign. That is what I have told the prime minister who has absolutely not called on me to do so,” he told the broadcaster.

However, the prime minister’s office ordered a probe into the report on the alleged renovations at de Rugy’s residence in Paris.

However, Twitter was more categorical. Allusions to the notorious Marie-Antoinette were not to avoid.

​The timing just ahead of the national celebration and amid the ongoing debates on cuts also did not help.

The row is damaging because De Rugy is currently leading Emmanuel Macron’s environmental policy at a time when the government is under pressure to cut costs and waste, after being accused of doing too little to combat the climate emergency.

— Fuad Alakbarov ⁠⁠ (@DrAlakbarov) July 12, 2019

​Others pointed that it was not Macron’s first HR disaster…

love this from @SPIEGELONLINE on “Macrons desaströse Personalentscheidungen” (Macron’s disastrous personnel nominations): Benalla, Loiseau’s EU failure, and now the De Rugy scandal… hard to disagree, the man is awful at hiring peoplehttps://t.co/0gVzgn6AaE

— Pauline Bock (@PaulineBock) July 13, 2019

​…and insisted that both should leave.

Président of 12%

De rugy must go away and Macron the meprisant (contemptuous) of the republic too !

— Jo φ 🇫🇷 🍃 (@joxp69) July 13, 2019

​In the meantime, the lobster emoji became a hit.

Le 🦞 by De Rugy! Excellent.

— Pascal FERNANDEZ Avocat (@fernandezavocat) July 13, 2019

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