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French Ambassador Levitte Defends Word Choice

French Ambassador Levitte Defends Word Choice

Letter to the Editor – Rocky Mountain News - by French Ambassador to the United States of America, Jean-David Levitte. Source: Embassy of France, Washington D.C., April 29, 2004.

I am writing in reference to the News editorial of April 19, "French diplomacy at its lowest."

First, let me clarify one point: I mentioned French-bashing, which fortunately now belongs to the past, in answering a question from the audience relating to the political climate of last year. I still maintain that we should indeed look forward and work together to help a sovereign, stable Iraq emerge.

On the substance, I can only concur with the News' observation that, like the U.S., France is a melting pot, with citizens of diverse origins. But I still see no reason why the French were called "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" by Jonah Goldberg (National Review) or "weasels" by the New York Post. Bill O'Reilly (Fox News) once asked Condoleezza Rice, "Why don't you send a couple of American divisions over to get Jacques Chirac?" while David Letterman said, "The last time France wanted more evidence it rolled right through Paris with a German flag."

As a result we were inundated with hate mail. We were disparaged as "immoral cowards; a nation of effeminate, improbitive, whimpering, timorous poltroons." And isn't it racist to say "I hope you enjoy Islam. I hope you do not expect to move to the U.S. when the Muslims run you out of your own country"?

I definitely don't think such words are deserving of our common values of tolerance and human dignity. And I still don't perceive the link between our past disagreement on how to disarm Iraq and these insults directed at all French people. I would be glad not to qualify such comments as "racist" if you could offer me a better word to characterize them.

Jean-David Levitte
French Ambassador to the U.S.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).