06:02 GMT20 September 2020
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    The former French president was appearing on a television show focusing on racial issues that have gained particular awareness recently amid the Black Lives Matter protests triggered in the US by the death of black man George Floyd, which sent shockwaves reverberating globally.

    Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has sparked a racism row in France, using the word "monkeys" before weighing in on a controversy over racist language in an interview on French television.

    ​The debate on "Quotidien" touched upon the belated decision to change the French translation of an Agatha Christie novel’s title to remove the N-word.

    "[There's] this will of the elites, who hold their noses, who are like the monkeys who don't listen to anyone", said Sarkozy on the channel TMC on Thursday evening, using gestures to imitate deaf, dumb, and blind monkeys.

    The ex-president continued:

    "I don't know if ... we still have the right to say monkeys? Because we no longer have the right to say ... what do we say now, the 10 little soldiers? You see, the book? Maybe we have the right to say 'monkey' without insulting anyone?"

    65-year-old Sarkozy then confirmed to the host that he was referring to Agatha Christie's novel "And Then There Were None".

    While the English version of the book's title was changed decades ago from the original “Ten Little N******” to remove the word that was perceived as racist, the French version only had its title changed last month.

    At the request of Christie's great grandson, James Prichard, who heads the firm that owns the literary and media rights to her works, the title in French will now be "Ils étaient dix" ("They Were Ten").

    ​Furthermore, the text of the novel itself will also be revised, as the N-word word appeared 74 times in the French version. It will be replaced with the word "soldat" or "soldier" in the latest translation by Gerard de Cherge, said RTL.

    ‘Racist Shipwreck’

    Critics pounced on the former president’s comments, tearing into the ex-head of state, who still commands a presence on the French political scene.

    Audrey Pulvar, deputy mayor of Paris, deplored the remarks as "pure and profound racism", accusing Sarkozy of "putting an equal sign" between the word "monkey" and the word in the original title of the Christie book.

    Green MEP Yannick Jadot tweeted a video clip with the comment "racist shipwreck".

    Olivier Faure, leader of the Socialist Party, suggested that the former president's comments were "unmasked racism".

    Socialist Ségolène Royal, Sarkozy's defeated opponent in the 2007 presidential election, said the statements made by him fall "unfortunately in line with his lamentable speech in Dakar", where he claimed that "the African man" had "not sufficiently entered history".

    Netizens were also appalled at the statements made by Sarkozy on the TV show.

    ​Others defended Sarkozy’s comments.

    Rachida Dati, who served as justice minister under Sarkozy, said the controversy around his remarks came against the backdrop of a "dangerous tyranny of political correctness".

    Nadine Morano, a former minister in the Sarkozy government and member of the European Parliament, tweeted that the statements by the former president had been taken out of context.

    ​Nicholas Sarkozy has not offered a direct comment on the row. However, on Thursday evening he tweeted an excerpt from the TV show where he voiced his admiration for black French poet Aimé Césaire.


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