Boos, cheers greet Macron pledge to 'piss off' unvaccinated

  • World
  • Wednesday, 05 Jan 2022

FILE PHOTO: France's President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a news conference at the European Council Building at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium December 17, 2021. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) -The government on Wednesday defended President Emmanuel Macron's use of a coarse insult in a stepped-up campaign against France's unvaccinated, after the phrase drew condemnation from the opposition and mixed reactions from voters.

Parliament suspended debate on a COVID-19 bill as opposition lawmakers demanded explanations from Macron, who earlier said he wanted to "piss off" unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting jabbed.

"A president cannot say such things," Christian Jacob, chair of the conservative Les Republicans party, told parliament as it discussed a bill to make it mandatory for people to show proof of vaccination to enter many enclosed public spaces.

But government spokesman Gabriel Attal said it stood by Macron's comment to Le Parisien newspaper, published late on Tuesday.

"Who is pissing off who today?", Attal said, quoting health workers struggling to cope or businesses hurt by the pandemic. "It's those who refuse the vaccine."

With a presidential election due in April in which he is expected to run, Macron may have calculated that enough people are now vaccinated - and upset with remaining anti-vaxxers - for his comment to go down well with voters.

It resonated with some.

"He's right," said 89-year-old Paris pensioner Jean, who's had his COVID-19 booster and a flu shot too. "Those who are against the vaccine should understand the dangers, and they should get vaccinated."

But others agreed with lawmaker Jacob that Macron's use of the slang term "emmerder" - from "merde" (s***) - was unacceptable.

"That shows an aggressive side, it's a bad word, it's not very clever of him," said 25-year old sales representative Maya Belhassen.

"That's not a good comment from a president," added newspaper seller Pascal Delord.


France has historically had more vaccine sceptics than many of its neighbours, and pandemic restrictions have triggered many street protests, but nearly 90% of those aged 12 have now been inoculated, one of the continent's highest COVID-19 vaccination rates.

In the Le Parisien interview, Macron, who has consistently called on everyone in France to get vaccinated, also called unvaccinated people irresponsible and - in another remark criticised by some voters and the opposition, that "irresponsible people are no longer citizens".

Macron did not say whether he would run for re-election but said he "would like to".

People have for several months had to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter venues such as cinemas and cafes and use trains. But with Delta and Omicron variant infections surging, the government decided to drop the test option in the new bill.

The opposition forced the suspension of the debate on the vaccine pass, shortly before 2 a.m (0100 GMT). It resumed during the afternoon.

"I'm in favour of the vaccine pass but I cannot back a text whose objective is to 'piss off' the French," Jacob told parliament before the suspension. "Is that your objective, yes or no? We cannot keep debating without having a clear answer on that."

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Lea Guedj, Ingrid Melander; Editing by Timothy Heritage and John Stonestreet)

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights

Next In World

Ukraine President Zelenskiy's life story told in new comic book
COVID is rising in the Americas, virus 'not going away anytime soon' -PAHO
With troops in Ukraine, Russia's defence spending leaps 40%
Russia expels 85 diplomats from France, Spain and Italy
Canada-U.S. asylum-seeker pact has adequate safeguards, Canada argues in court documents
Human Rights Watch documents 'apparent war crimes' by Russia in Ukraine
Finland and Sweden to buy firearms, anti-tank weapons together
Three decades later, convict in former Indian PM Gandhi assassination freed
EU plans 9 billion euros joint borrowing for Ukraine, more for reconstruction
Philippines' Marcos set for supermajority as 'Uniteam' dominates Congress

Others Also Read