French journalist groups have condemned "sexist" remarks directed at women reporters by Eric Dupond-Moretti, the country's combative justice minister.
Dupond-Moretti made the offending comments Monday after inspecting a courthouse in the central town of Aurillac that had been damaged during a protest against the prosecution of a woman for "sexual exhibitionism" after she walked topless in the street.
Many of the protesters bared their chests like the arrested woman -- identified only as Marina -- who told police that she had removed her top because "it's super hot out" and "half the men" in the street had done the same.
The Societe des Journalistes (SDJ) at several national media outlets claimed that Dupond-Moretti told journalists that "I have noticed that none of the women journalists asking questions today were standing bare-breasted in front of me. Maybe it wasn't hot enough?"
The SDJ at broadcaster BFMTV said he made the "inappropriate" remarks after a press briefing to several reporters, two of whom were women.
The SDJ at France's biggest TV station TF1 called the remarks "sexist" and "unacceptable" even "if they had been made jokingly".
An official speaking for Dupond-Moretti meanwhile said there was "no basis" to the complaints and that the minister was "completely" devoted to "the fight against all forms of sexual and sexist violence".
The official told AFP that the minister's remarks had been taken out of context, and that he had simply wanted to point out that women wearing tops, such as the reporters present, were "proof that respect for the law is the norm".
The leader of the opposition Socialists, Olivier Faure, backed the media outrage, calling Dupond-Moretti's words "inappropriate remarks by an inappropriate minister". The minister "should manage his libido elsewhere than in government", Faure said.
Dupond-Moretti has a history of robust exchanges. In March he was scolded by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne for repeatedly using an offensive hand gesture known as the "bras d'honneur" ("arm of honour") towards an opposition lawmaker in parliament.
And last the former star defence lawyer was ordered to stand trial for allegedly misusing his ministerial position to settle scores with opponents from his legal career.
In 2021 he admitted to a failure to declare 300,000 euros ($325,000) in royalties to the tax authorities.