During a joint press conference between Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour bizarrely connected the Illinois senator with a 2005 comment by then-Interior Minister Sarkozy that French rioters were "scum." She asked the now-president of France, "And I'm wondering whether you feel, today, when you stand next to someone you clearly admire so much, and who has broken so many barriers, that you regret that term or that you wish you hadn't said it?"
[Audio available here.]
Amanpour never made clear the odd link she seemed to be making between Obama and the "scum" rioters, other than to begin by stating, "Mr. President Sarkozy, you know that in France, the presence of Barack Obama and what he's done in terms of breaking the barriers in the United States has, sort of, made a resurgent black consciousness movement here." President Sarkozy deftly handled the CNN reporter's question. He began with this jibe: "Thank you, madam, for your exceptional knowledge of French political life and your contribution to friendship among peoples." Maintaining a smile, the president added, "...And I'm so glad that you should mention in front of Barack, a situation that prevailed before I became president in France."
At the very least, Amanpour's query smacks of elitism and racist implications that it's odd for Sarkozy to say nice things about Obama, who is black, since he's also slammed rioters, some of whom happened to be black.
This is not the first time that Amanpour has asked such a question. While talking with (then) prime minister Dominique de Villepin in late 2005, she wondered:
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: And on France's fiery unrest, two weeks of rioting by French youths of African and Arab origin, de Villepin admits these people do face discrimination, but he downplays the violence compared to what's happened in the U.S.
DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN: It's very different from the situation you have known, in 1992 in L.A., for example. You had at that time, 54 people that died. You had 2,000 people wounded in France during two weeks period of unrest. Nobody died in France. So, I think you cannot compare this social unrest with any kind of riots.
A transcript of the July 25 exchange, which occurred at 12:25pm on "MSNBC's News Live," follows:
AMANPOUR: Mr. President Sarkozy, you know that in France, the presence of Barack Obama and what he's done in terms of breaking the barriers in the United States has, sort of, made a resurgent black consciousness movement here. The black people in France are very proud and very hopeful for their future. They also live, many of them, in poor situations. And you know, you've had your own riots here and protests and disturbances in the Banlieue -- in the city. At one point, when we were covering those riots, when you were interior minister, you called the rioters scum. And I'm wondering whether you feel, today, when you stand next to someone you clearly admire so much, and who has broken so many barriers, that you regret that term or that you wish you hadn't said it?
NICOLAS SARKOZY: Thank you, madam, for your exceptional knowledge of French political life and your contribution to friendship among peoples. But, precisely, if there was the need for change, it's because change was needed and I'm so glad that you should mention in front of Barack, a situation that prevailed before I became president in France. Now, this was in 2005, you remember, madam? We've had major confrontations at that time. And you in the United States know exactly what that means because you also had that kind of difficulty. There's a difference between the kind of confrontations that I had to handle as minister of the interior and those that you have to handled in the United States. There was not a single person who died in France. Not a single bullet was shot by the police. The only injuries that were sustained were sustained by the police. Now, since I was elected, there hasn't be a single riot because we've implemented a considerable development program for these inner cities. And what I want to ensure is that the political adventure of Senator Barack Obama not simply be contained or the exclusive of a great country like the United States of America. You know, how many years has it been since you haven't had an American sounding name for your secretaries of state? Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Condi Rice. That's why I love the United States. And that's why in France, we have Rachida Dati, Fadela Amara, Rama Yade. Precisely so that each be given an opportunity, that everyone have an opportunity. And, so, what the Americans have done and that's what I talked about and I'm proud of what's been done in the United States. And that's what I want to do here. One last detail: When I talked about affirmative action, positive discrimination, that is the way the Americans have said, for instance-- there must be as much differentiation, as many different faces leading a country than at the grass roots. But I don't know if you wanted to please me by putting this question, but you certainly did. So, thank you for your question.