Fillon to Stay in French Race, Says Wife’s Pay Justified
Paris: French rightwing presidential candidate Francois Fillon on Monday apologised for hiring his wife as a parlia-mentary aide, admitting he made an “error” but refusing to quit the race.
Fillon’s presidential bid has been floundering since it emerged that his British-born spouse was paid over 800,000 euros ($860,000) from public funds between 1998 and 2013 as a parliamentary assistant.
He also hired two of his children as assistants, paying them 84,000 euros ($91,000) pre-tax between 2005 and 2007. “It was an error, I profoundly regret it and I apologise to the French,” a combative Fillon told a press conference while insisting he had done nothing illegal and that his wife Penelope’s earnings were “justified”.
Fillon, 62, said he had hired family members — as allowed in France — out of “trust” but recognised that such prac-tises “create distrust nowadays”. Addressing alle g ations that Penelope did not actually perform any duties, Fillon said: “No one has the right to judge what a parliamentary assistant’s job consists of, ex- cept the MP himself.”
He said his wife had worked constantly to assist in his constituency business and that her average monthly salary of 3,677 euros (around $4,000) after tax over the period was “perfectly justified” given her training in law and litera-ture.
He again presented himself as the victim of a smear campaign and ruled out stepping back in favour of another Re-publicans party candidate, saying there was no “Plan B’.
“I am a candidate for the presidency to win it,” he said.
Fillon’s remarks were an attempt to bury a scandal that has dogged his campaign for nearly two weeks, triggering a preliminary probe into possible misuse of public funds.