French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday (January 4) he wanted to “piss off” the non-vaccinated, in a slangy, cutting remark that prompted howls of condemnation from opposition rivals less than four months before the next presidential election.
“The unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And so, we’re going to continue doing so, until the end. That’s the strategy,” Macron told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview published late on Tuesday.
France last year put in place a health pass that prevents people without a PCR test or proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, cafes and other venues. The government wants to turn it into a vaccine passport that means only the vaccinated can have a health pass.
“I won’t send (the unvaccinated) to prison, I won’t vaccinate by force. So we need to tell them, from Jan. 15, you won’t be able to go to the restaurant anymore, you won’t be able to down one, won’t be able to have a coffee, go to the theatre, the cinema…”
The expression “emmerder”, from “merde” (shit), that can also be translated as “to get on their nerves”, is considered “very informal” by French dictionary Larousse and prompted immediate criticism by rivals on social media.
Macron has been criticised in the past for off-the-cuff remarks which many French people said came across as arrogant, cutting or scornful. He has later expressed contrition on several occasions.
“It’s not up to the president to pick and choose who among the French are good or bad. They have to be accepted as they are, and they should be governed and united without being insulted,” right-wing 2022 presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse told CNews television on Wednesday (January 5).
Infectious diseases expert Eric Caumes told BFM TV on Wednesday that a part of him understood Macron’s frustration with the unvaccinated but that he remained “a bit surprised.”
“We ourselves (doctors) also expressed a certain exasperation with regard to the unvaccinated, and we, too, said comments that went beyond what was in our head. That’s what the doctor in me thinks on this,” Caumes said.
In the detailed interview, Macron’s first in the new year, the president also said he had a good mind to run for re-election in April, but did not explicitly announce his intention to run.