France’s interior minister sparked a storm of protest and accusations of racism after a video showed him making an apparently derogatory joke about French citizens of Arab origin. “When there’s one, it’s OK,” Brice Hortefeux, a key minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, said in the film posted on Le Monde newspaper’s site that rapidly became an online hit on a host of video websites. “It’s when there are a lot of them that there are problems,” he said in the film Le Monde said shows him getting ready to pose for a photo with a young man from France’s large community of Arab origin.
The young activist told the media that the minister’s comments had been taken out of context.
“It’s disgraceful. I am Arab but he completely respected me, it wasn’t at all out of place. And I do not consider that it was a blunder,” said the man, who was not named by the newspaper. Prime Minister Francois Fillon stepped into the row to stand by his interior minister, declaring that Hortefeux “was the “victim of a fairly scandalous campaign of defamation.” Hortefeux was immigration minister from 2007 until early this year. Many have called for his resignation over the matter.