Scandal-tainted French presidential candidate Francois Fillon attempts to fight back as pressure builds up on him to quit the race. Rough cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT. NO REPORTER NARRATION. French presidential candidate Francois Fillon attempted to fight back on Thursday (February 2) as pressure mounted on him to quit the race. Some lawmakers from his own side have urged him to drop his scandal-tainted bid to save the conservatives from defeat. Fillon has denied wrongdoing after Le Canard Enchaine newspaper reported the former prime minister had paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros for work she may not have done. But Fillon pressed on with his campaign, telling a rally of about 1,000 people to "help him resist" against orchestrated efforts by his political opponents to break him and the party. He once again defended his actions as "nothing illegal" and sought to grab back the political high ground by attacking the other presidential candidates. With opinion polls showing the conservatives that their candidate may be fatally damaged, some senior members of The Republicans urged Fillon to pull out now to give the party time to find a replacement who can save them from defeat. A supporter who attended the rally said the likes of ex-ministers Francois Baroin and Xavier Bertrand, who served under President Nicolas Sarkozy, would be good alternatives. Falling poll ratings since then will benefit far right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker running as an independent. A daily IFOP poll of voting intentions for the April 23 first round showed Fillon down one percentage point since Wednesday to be level with Macron. Either candidate would comfortably beat Le Pen in the May 7 runoff, the poll suggests.