François Hollande has issued a sharp riposte to Donald Trump after his US counterpart’s comments hinting that terrorist attacks had made Europe – and particularly Paris – unsafe.
At a visit to an agricultural fair, the French president said Trump had told him on the phone that he loved France, its food and its culture.
After stating that he didn’t want to make a comparison, Hollande added:
“Here, there is no circulation of weapons. Here, you don’t have people with guns opening fire on the crowd simply for the satisfaction of causing drama and tragedy. Alas, there is terrorism and we must fight it together. I think that it’s never good to show the least distrust of a friendly country.”
After Trump claimed Paris was “no longer Paris”, French politicians immediately cited figures to claim the capital was still a popular destination for American tourists.
The Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo took to Twitter to troll Trump, posting “To Donald and his friend Jim, from the Eiffel Tower we are celebrating Paris’ appeal with Mickey and Minnie.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also got in on the action, tweeting “3.5 million American tourists visited France in 2016. They’re always welcome.”
Other visitors to the Eiffel Tower sought to put the row in perspective.
“He (Trump) is just pointing them out in a very bold way,” said Joao Araugo, a Portuguese student.
“It can be dangerous here, just as it can be dangerous in the US, even if they close their borders,” said Erun Enbiz, a Spanish tourist from Zaragoza.
“The earth is for everybody, not just for the Americans or for the French. We are all equal,” said Marie-Claire Richard, a visitor from central France, when asked whether Trump was right to close borders to migrants.
“Take a look at Nice and Paris”, the US president said during his speech to a conservative conference on Friday. More than 230 people have died in a series of attacks in France since the beginning of 2015 – including 130 in Paris in November of that year and 84 in Nice last July – and the country is under an ongoing state of emergency.
“We can’t let it happen to us,” Trump added to applause. He did not mention last year’s Orlando nightclub shooting or the San Bernardino attack in 2015 – or other mass shootings that have marked recent US history.
Trump’s comments on Europe were full of innuendo. “Look at what’s happening”, or “look at what’s happened”, he repeatedly said – without stating exactly what.
He also repeated an allusion to “what happened in Sweden” – without saying what – because in fact, nothing did. His previous remarks were taken to refer to claims peddled by the alt-right about an alleged migrant rape crisis that was debunked as fake by Canadian reporter Doug Saunders.
The US president’s renewed comments evoking fears of terrorism in Europe were followed by a vow to keep what he called “radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country”.