An internet race row has sparked calls for the resignation of France’s Interior Minister, one of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s closest friends.
In a video put online by a French newspaper, Brice Hortefeux is seen at a summer congress, joking with party activists, including a man of Arab origin.
In the clip, Hortefeux says: “He does not match the prototype. We always need one. It is when there are a lot of them that there are problems.”
Denying claims of racism, Hortefeux insists the light-hearted exchange was not about Arabs at all but about people from his home region, Auvergne.
But anti-racism groups are not convinced by the explanation of the man who was until recently France’s immigration minister.
The opposition Socialist party has also denounced Hortefeux’s behaviour. Spokesman Benoit Hamon said: “These comments are unspeakable, unbearable, in the mouth of a minister. That is why many Socialist voices have demanded Brice Hortefeux’s immediate resignation.”
The row comes just days after the minister forced a senior civil servant into early retirement amid claims he had made racist remarks.