Pascal Praud, a right-wing firebrand and host on French network CNews, has been accused of racism for asking if bed bugs are being spread by migrants.
Pascal Praud, one of France’s most popular television presenters, is facing an onslaught of criticism after suggesting that Paris’ bed bug crisis could be linked to immigration.
The 59 year old is a leading right-wing commentator and host of a daily debate show on Paris-based news channel CNews, which critics often compare to US far-right news outlet Fox News.
Praud hosts “L’Heure des Pros,” where experts and far-right pundits debate often divisive and inflammatory topics in France – including Islam, immigration and crime.
The growing popularity of his show has catapulted CNews from the newcomer to the French media landscape to the second most watched TV network in the country.
Last Friday, during a debate on the spread of bed bugs in the capital, Praud asked a pest control specialist if the infestation could be linked to his perceived rise in immigration.
(NB: France granted 1.7 million visas last year, which is higher than in 2021. But it’s still less than half as many as before the pandemic – 3.7 million in 2019.)
“There’s a lot of immigration at the moment,” Praud said. “These are people who don’t have the same hygiene conditions who are now on French soil… Could it be linked to that?”
The answer from his guest was a resounding “Absolutely not.”
Critics slam ‘shocking’ and ‘racist’ comments
Backlash on social media was immediate - and in response, politicians from President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, along with far-left La France Insoumise filed a complaint with the country’s media regulator Arcom, accusing Praud of racism.
La France Insoumise MP Aurelien Saintoul wrote on X: “These comments are obviously racist. The caution P. Praud pretends to exercise fails to make us forget (antisemitic author Charles) Maurras who said ‘the terrible vermin of Jews of the East bring lice, the plague, typhus’. Disgusting.”
Bérangère Couillard, the government minister in charge of fighting against discrimination, denounced Praud’s “very shocking comments”.
Paris’ Deputy Mayor David Belliard called Praud’s comments “stupid and racist,” saying “CNews’ entire editorial line can be summed up in this clip.”
French scientists have found that the proliferation of bed bugs in Paris is actually linked to their growing resistance to pesticides, along with the spread of mass tourism. Many of the tiny bugs will hitch a ride on suitcases and make their way through hotels and public transport taken by tourists, not immigrants.
In Paris, the outbreak was first reported in cinemas, and bed bugs have now been seen on public transport, in airports and hotels.
Pascal Praud’s response: 'You’re all just jealous'
On Tuesday, Praud lashed out at his critics and denied all accusations of racism, starting his show by saying a journalist doesn’t need to justify the questions he asks in interviews.
“This Friday I was insulted, harassed, defamed for asking a simple question. Does a journalist need to justify himself for the questions he asks?”
He called the controversy a “manhunt,” demanded that Arcom defend him and said his critics were just jealous of CNews’ success.
“The success of CNews (...) exacerbates jealousy, bitterness, resentment, all these sad passions that today carry a media landscape that is dominated by left and far-left ideologies.”
Ratings have steadily grown for CNews, which is owned by French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, even as more centrist and left-leaning figures refuse to appear on the channel due to its increasingly far-right slant.
This September, the network recorded its highest monthly viewership since it launched in 2017, driven largely by Praud’s “L’Heure des Pros”.
Last year, CNews became the first 24-hour news channel to be fined by France’s media regulator for inciting hatred and violence.
The network was ordered to pay €200,000 for broadcasting comments by far-right journalist and politician Eric Zemmour on child migrants and the asylum system, which it deemed hate speech.