Macron, like his predecessors, is a fervent supporter of the French wine industry (Ludovic MARIN)
French President Emmanuel Macron has been accused of encouraging binge-drinking after being filmed downing a bottle of beer with Toulouse’s rugby players after they clinched the domestic league title at the weekend.
Video on social media shows the president being handed a bottle of Corona in the Toulouse changing room after the end of the game at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, which Macron watched from the VIP enclosure.
After being urged to down it in one, the 45-year-old drains the bottle in 17 seconds to cheers and whoops from the Toulouse coaching staff and players after their 29-26 victory over La Rochelle in the French Top 14 final.
“Toxic masculinity in political leadership in one image,” tweeted Sandrine Rousseau, an MP for the Greens party.
“A president who is sharing in the joy of 23 players and taking part in their traditions. That’s all,” replied ruling party MP Jean-Rene Cazeneuve.
Macron is a keen sports fan and is well known for his locker-room visits to French sports teams.
In December, after Les Bleus lost the final of the football World Cup in Qatar, the former investment banker made an appearance in the team’s changing room to deliver an emotional pep talk.
But like most French presidents, he is frequently seen with a glass of wine in hand, and he once claimed he drank a glass at lunch and another in the evening.
He has given fervent backing to France’s famed wine industry, even blocking attempts by public health authorities to promote the “Dry January” concept — turning the first month of the year into four weeks of alcohol abstinence.
“The president has a responsibility as a role model in terms of setting a healthy example for behaviour,” Bernard Basset from the charity Association Addictions France told the BFM channel on Monday.
“In this case, he’s associating sport, parties and the consumption of alcohol in a context of virile peer-pressure where everyone drinks a bit too much,” he said.
“It’s inappropriate,” William Lowenstein, a doctor and addiction specialist, told the same channel. “You could do it, but not in front of the cameras.”
The spokesman for the Socialist party in parliament, Arthur Delaporte, said that “a president shouldn’t do that.”
“Fifty years of public health policy against excessive consumption of alcohol, binge-drinking… the message clearly hasn’t worked,” he wrote.
– Man of the people? –
The images might help the ratings of a politician long criticised as out-of-touch with ordinary people.
Macron’s popularity slumped to a near-record low in March and April this year as he pushed through a highly unpopular hike in the retirement age, and he was booed by sections of the crowd as he took to the pitch before the game on Saturday.
So low was his popularity that it was thought best he shake hands with the players of the French football Cup final in April in the corridor at the Stade de France, and not on the pitch before the game.
Even though alcohol consumption has fallen in France in the last 50 years, around 49,000 deaths are caused by the intoxicant each year and excessive consumption is “one of principal causes of hospital admissions”, according to the health ministry.
Left-leaning newspaper Liberation, a regular critic of the pro-business Macron, reminded the president of his words in 2018 before an agricultural fair.
“There is a public health scourge which is young people binge-drinking on spirits or beer, but it’s not with wine,” it quoted him as saying.