PARIS — A former French lawmaker’s defamation lawsuit against six women who accused him of sexual misconduct and four journalists who reported the allegations goes to trial Monday in what some fear illustrates a backlash against the #MeToo movement.
Nearly 1½ years before allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein became a reckoning event for powerful men in entertainment and media, France’s Mediapart website and radio station France Inter published accounts from 14 women who alleged Denis Baupin had groped, sexted and otherwise harassed them.
Baupin, a prominent Green Party member and former Paris city official, resigned as vice president of the lower house of parliament when the reports came out in May 2016. He denied wrongdoing and the next month, sued the journalists, the six accusers who agreed to be named in the news reports and two men who were quoted corroborating some of the alleged misbehavior.
Baupin’s lawyer, Emmanuel Pierrat, said his client did nothing illegal and now wants to “fully clear his name.” The lawsuit’s main intent is to prove the investigative website and radio station were unfair in their coverage, Pierrat said.
“His reputation, his family, his life were broken” by the allegations, Pierrat told The Associated Press.
Most of the women who spoke about Baupin’s alleged behavior from 1998 to 2013 were fellow Green Party members, and outrage greeted their descriptions. Four filed criminal complaints for sexual harassment. A nine-month judicial investigation ended without charges.