French President Emmanuel Macron provoked outcries in parliament and shrill protests from election rivals by using a vulgarity to describe his strategy for pressuring vaccine refusers to get coronavirus jabs as infections surge.
Macron used the French word “emmerder,” rooted in the French word for “crap” and meaning to rile or to bug, in an interview published by Le Parisien on Tuesday night, as parliament debated new measures that will allow only the vaccinated to enjoy leisure activities such as eating out.
“The unvaccinated, I really want to bug them. And so we will continue doing so, to the end. That’s the strategy,” Le Parisien quoted the French leader as saying in a sit-down interview at the presidential Elysee Palace with a panel of its readers.
The explosive use of earthy language more commonly heard at the counter of French cafés immediately further complicated the already difficult passage in parliament of the government’s planned new vaccine pass.
It will exclude the non-vaccinated from places such as restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums and sports arenas. The pass will also be required on inter-regional trains and buses and domestic flights.
Opposition lawmakers protested audibly as Macron’s health minister, Olivier Veran, sought to defend the president’s choice of words. The heated parliamentary debate dragged into early Wednesday morning and was then again suspended.
Veran said Macron’s interview demonstrated his “intention, above all, to protect the population.”
Critics accused Macron of behavior unbecoming a president and of targeting the unvaccinated to win support from the 90% of French adults who are fully vaccinated.
Macron is facing reelection in April.