Emmanuel Macron’s wife will file a complaint for transphobic fake news

A disinformation campaign has targeted the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron in recent days, falsely claiming she was born male, adding to fears about fake news on the internet less than four months before the presidential elections.

Brigitte Macron, 68, intends to take legal action for disinformation. “She has decided to initiate proceedings, it is in progress,” her lawyer Jean Ennochi told AFP, without giving further details.

The false claim had gained traction on social media in recent days, mingling strong opposition to centrist Macron with far-right ideology and transphobia.

Transphobic fake news targeting political figures has been very rare in France until now, but is not a new phenomenon on a global scale.

Women targeted in the past have included former US First Lady Michelle Obama, US Vice President Kamala Harris and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

But the eruption of attacks against Brigitte Macron, comes as her husband, who celebrated his 44th birthday on Tuesday, is preparing to lead what should be a tense battle to get re-elected in April.

Macron’s relationship with his wife, 24 years his senior, has as always aroused great media interest in France and abroad. They first met when she led a drama class when he was still a teenager.

This is not the first time that the Macron couple have been targeted by rumors targeting gender or sexual orientation. During the 2017 election campaign, when he was elected, Emmanuel Macron had to deny the allegations concerning his alleged homosexuality.

For several months, messages have multiplied on social networks affirming that Brigitte Macron, born Brigitte Trogneux, is a transgender woman whose first name at birth was Jean-Michel.

The false allegations allege that a large conspiracy was designed to hide this change in marital status and, pushing the conspiracy theory a step further, say the pedophilia charges have been covered up.

Slow onset of viral trend

This false news first circulated in a very discreet manner.

The first of these claims appears to have been made on Facebook in March by a user calling himself “Natacha Rey”. This “journalist’s” page is teeming with conspiracy theories and diatribes against the so-called “health dictatorship”.

User posts mix family photos and purported marital status documents.

They were seized by another Facebook user to invent the conspiracy theory that Brigitte Macron is a “Satanist pedo-criminal transgender”, a term echoing the QAnon conspiracy movement that originated in the United States and claims that the world is ruled in secret by a pedophile elite.

The dissemination of the demands began in mid-October with the publication of an article on the supposed “mystery of Brigitte Macron” in “Faits et Documents”, a magazine founded in 1996 by the dark far-right writer Emmanuel Ratier, who died. in 2015.

“Natacha Rey” claims to be behind the so-called investigation.

Almost two weeks after its publication, the hashtag #JeanMichelTrogneux first appeared on Twitter on November 1 before being circulated by a relatively under-followed account “Le Journal de la Macronie” which is fiercely opposed to the president, according to the ‘InVid We Verify data analysis tool developed for AFP.

For nearly a month, the hashtag was not very visible, but saw a dramatic surge in popularity from the beginning of December. On December 6, it generated just 35 tweets, but produced more than 13,000 three weeks later.

According to InVid’s latest tally, the hashtag has so far generated 68,300 retweets and over 174,000 likes. The interpretation of these figures is not without ambiguity since the count includes both those who use the hashtag to promote their cause but also those who highlight the tendency to denounce it.

As with many conspiracy theories, its main promoters come from a very diverse movement ranging from Covid-skeptics to French ultra-nationalists.

According to InVid, the Twitter account which has posted the most messages on this fake news is thus run by a supporter of “Frexit” – France’s withdrawal from the EU – while the most retweeted user runs a media outlet. line denouncing “propaganda” on the Omicron Covid. variant.

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