French MP Suspended After "Return to Africa" Remarks

The French parliament has issued a 15-day suspension for MP Gregoire de Fournas, a member of the far-right National Rally party, who appeared to yell "return to Africa" as a Black MP discussed migrants.

French MP Suspended After "Return to Africa" Remarks
Image credit: Assemblee Nationale 2022/AFP [via Al Jazeera]

Facts

  • The French parliament has issued a 15-day suspension for MP Gregoire de Fournas, a member of the far-right National Rally party, who appeared to yell "return to Africa" as a Black MP discussed migrants.
  • While Carlos Martens Bilongo was speaking about finding a port for 234 migrants recently rescued at sea, the official account cited de Fournas as saying "he" should go back to Africa, with de Fournas claiming he said "they," the migrants. The two phrases sound identical in French — "Qu'il retourne en Afrique," and "Qu'ils retournent en Afrique."
  • Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne urged the assembly to sanction de Fournas, and Bilongo — who was born in France — called the comment "shameful." National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen defended her MP, saying, "The controversy created by our political opponents … will not deceive the French.”
  • The National Rally party has historically been accused of making racist, antisemitic, and anti-Islamic remarks, though Le Pen has recently sought to soften her party's hardline stance on immigration to appeal to a broader voter base.
  • President Macron's Renaissance party commented and refused to attend further parliamentary sessions until the council imposes a "heavy penalty" on de Fournas.
  • After his remarks, de Fournas apologized to Bilongo for "any misunderstanding," though he rejected calls to resign.

Sources: Stirling, BBC News, Al Jazeera, DW, Euro, and Guardian.

Narratives

  • Left narrative, as provided by France24. De Fournas' penalty is the only just course of action. Le Pen's far-right party cannot get away with abjectly racist comments, and he deserves full censure for his disgraceful behavior.
  • Right narrative, as provided by Le Figaro.If a clearly-misinterpreted comment is all it takes to induce a penalty, many other MPs should prepare to receive the same punishment. The 15-day suspension was issued only once before, and now the left has decided to use it over a simple misunderstanding. This is unfair cancel culture.