Damien Tarel attacked Emmanuel Macron as he shook hands with members of the public during a walkabout in Drôme, France.
A French court on Thursday sentenced a man who slapped French President Emmanuel Macron this week to 18 months, 14 of which were suspended.
Damien Tarel, a 28-year-old medieval history buff, has been in custody since the assault on Tuesday, which a prosecutor called “absolutely unacceptable” and “an act of deliberate violence”.
Tarel attacked Macron when the French president shook hands with members of the public during a walkabout in Drôme, France.
Tarel said several days before Macron’s visit to the region he had considered tossing an egg or custard pie at the president, but added the slap was not premeditated.
“I think Macron represents the decadence of our country very well,” he told the court, according to BFM TV.
“If I had challenged Macron to a duel at sunrise, I doubt he would have answered.”
Tarel faced a charge of assaulting a public official, an offense punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 54,750).
Macron ignored the assault, calling it an “isolated event”, and he vowed to continue meeting with voters despite concerns for his personal safety.
Asked about it in an interview Thursday with BFM TV, he called it a “stupid and violent act” and suggested it was a consequence of the poisonous atmosphere found on social media.
“You get used to hate on social media which is normalizing,” he said.
“And then when you’re face to face with someone, you think it’s the same. This is unacceptable.
Leaders from all walks of life have united in condemning the slap in the face, with many seeing it as a symptom of the difficult political climate and the declining standards of public debate just weeks before regional elections and 10 months before presidential elections.
“The political climate is turning sour. What is happening is dangerous, “Clémentine Autain, a left-wing deputy and candidate for regional elections, told France Info.
Others saw the assault as a sign of how Macron, a former reformist investment banker, continues to inspire visceral rejection from many French people.
His presidency was rocked by the anti-government “yellow vests” protests in 2018-2019, motivated in part by anger at his economic reforms as well as his abrasive personality.
Macron, 43, whose personal ratings have recently risen, is expected to run for a second term next year.
Polls show he holds a small lead over his main rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen.