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'I'm responsible, let them come and get me!' Macron challenges critics

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By Louise Miner
File photo of Emmanuel Macron and Alexandre Benalla
File photo of Emmanuel Macron and Alexandre Benalla

French president Emmanuel Macron has refused to apologise for failing to sack a close aide who attacked a demonstrator until the affair became public.

Macron admitted knowing that security advisor Alexandre Benalla had struck a man while wearing items of police uniform shortly after the incident happened at a May Day protest. He said he had agreed to suspend Benalla. When a video showing the event became public, Benalla was sacked and a police investigation opened.

Macron's advisors and his interior minister have been forced to explain the incident before MPs, but he himself has been accused of hiding behind his office.

In a private meeting with members of his own party, a video of which was leaked to AFP, Macron acknowledged that he was disappointed by what he described as a "betrayal".

"If they are looking for the person responsible, it's me and me alone. Let them come and get me," he stated.

He also tried to play down the situation, joking that Benalla did not have the nuclear codes and was "not my lover."

President Macron's popularity has dropped sharply since details of the incident emerged.

A poll by Elabe found 80% were "shocked" by the scandal.