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France Environment Minister Corruption Emmanuel Macron Yellow Vests

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I'm not going anywhere, says embattled environment minister

Francois de Rugy was under pressure on July 10 after a report claimed he had hosted luxury dinners while parliament speaker with allegedly little connection to his position, July 11, 2019 DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP

France's energy and environment minister, François de Rugy has dismissed calls for his resignation following allegations he spent public money on lavish dinners and furnishings, saying he was the victim of a smear campaign.

"I have absolutely no reason to resign," de Rugy told BFM TV on Friday as he tried to defuse a mounting scandal over his lavish lifestyle.

In a report on Wednesday, left-wing Mediapart website said the environment minister had hosted luxury dinners while he was parliament speaker with allegedly little connection to his position. 

De Rugy did not deny hosting the dinners, but vigorously rejected the claim they had been purely social events not linked to his job at the National Assembly.

"I have done nothing wrong, let us be clear on that," he insisted.

"Just because we are in the public space, it does not mean politicians have to accept every smear that is launched against them," he said, accusing Mediapart of publishing false rumours.

Bad image

"I read an article suggesting that I am living in a council property (...) I have never asked for a council property in my life (...)," he said on the verge of tears.

"There is a smear campaign that has been launched against me, because now people are saying all sorts of things."

However, it is not just the media that has attacked de Rugy but his own colleagues, including MP Benjamin Griveaux. The latter said de Rugy had given "a terrible image" of the French Republic at a time where the government is still grappling with the fallout from the Yellow Vest crisis.

De Rugy insists that he has the support of President Emmanuel Macron, and for now has kept his job.

An inquiry into his expenses has nonetheless been opened. The minister has vowed to "pay back every euro" if he is proven to be at fault.