French leader Macron loses his mayoral candidate in Paris

In a blow to French leader Emmanuel Macron, his former government spokesman pulled out of the race to become mayor of Paris on Friday, after French media reports of leaks onto the internet of compromising sexual images.

The sudden withdrawal of Benjamin Griveaux left Macron's party without a mayoral candidate in the French capital for the municipal elections next month. Paris is the most coveted of France's municipalities and a political fiefdom that has been used in the past, notably by former French President Jacques Chirac, as a springboard for higher office.

A grim-faced Griveaux announced the withdrawal himself on Friday morning, saying he'd been targeted by "vile attacks" on the internet and social media.

A Russian performance artist noted for macabre, politically charged actions reportedly claimed responsibility for the online video posts that apparently prompted Griveaux's resignation.

The newspaper Liberation said Pyotr Pavlensky called the daily on Thursday night and said he obtained the video from an unnamed source who had a relationship with Griveaux.

Liberation quoted Pavlensky as saying that he wanted to denounce Griveaux's "hypocrisy."

"He is someone who is always playing up family values, who says he wants to be the mayor of families and always cites as examples his wife and children. But he does the opposite," Liberation quoted Pavlensky as saying.