French president faced harsh criticism after he issued a warning to the country's unvaccinated people, saying he would pressure them as much as possible by limiting access to key aspects of life.
French President Emmanuel Macron has provoked outcries in parliament and shrill protests from election rivals by using a vulgarity to describe his strategy for pressuring vaccine refusers to get coronavirus jabs as infections surge.
Macron used the French word “emmerder,” rooted in the French word for “crap” and meaning to rile or to bug, in an interview published by Le Parisien on Tuesday night, as parliament debated new measures that will allow only the vaccinated to enjoy leisure activities such as eating out.
“The unvaccinated, I really want to bug them. And so we will continue doing so, to the end.
That's the strategy," Le Parisien quoted the French leader as saying in a sit-down interview at the presidential Elysee Palace with a panel of its readers.
The explosive use of earthy language more commonly heard at the counter of French cafés immediately further complicated the already difficult passage in parliament of the government's planned new vaccine pass.
It will exclude the non-vaccinated from places such as restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums and sports arenas.
The pass will also be required on inter-regional trains and buses and domestic flights.
'Unworthy' of office
Opposition lawmakers protested audibly as Macron's health minister, Olivier Veran, sought to defend the president's choice of words.
The head of the right-wing Republicans (LR) in the lower house National Assembly, Damien Abad, slammed "unworthy, irresponsible and premeditated" remarks which showed "childish cynicism", while the president of the Republicans Christian Jacob said the faction "refused to endorse a text which aims to hassle the French".
The heated parliamentary debate dragged into early on Wednesday and was then again suspended.
Veran said Macron's interview demonstrated his “intention, above all, to protect the population.”
Macron has been criticised in the past for off-the-cuff remarks, which many French people said came across as arrogant, cutting or scornful. He has later expressed contrition on several occasions.
"A president shouldn't say that," far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on Twitter. "Emmanuel Macron is unworthy of his office."
Macron is facing reelection in April.