MEP Nadine Morano’s (see pic below) repeated insistence during a TV panel show that France is “a country of white race” shocked and angered lawmakers across the political spectrum and left the former minister fighting for her political future.
While many spoke out to condemn her words the controversy has reopened an old row and on Thursday there were renewed calls for the president to fulfill his pre-election promise to delete the word “race” from the French constitution.
They were led by the far left who have long called for any trace of “race” to be wiped out from the law and the constitution and they we backed by government minister Michel Sapin.
“It is true that the word race today doesn't have the same meaning as it once had,” said Sapin told France 2.
“Today the word race is about racism and racism, it is not compatible with the Republic.
“This is why the term 'white race' is an abominable term, a term completely inconsistent with the values of the Republic,” he added.
The French Constitution states: “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic. It guarantees equality before the law for all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion.”
But in the run up to his election victory over Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande said “there is no place for race in the Republic”.
But despite the promise Hollande did not take the matter any further.
In May 2013 French MPs voted to remove the word from around 60 legislative texts, but the bill never went before the Senate and Hollande never made the move to change the constitution.
Morano's words may have presented him with an opportunity but critics and even some anti-racism groups claim the symbolic move will have little impact in reality.
For her part Morano, of the right-wing The Republicans party, could be barred from standing in regional elections in December over her remarks, in which she also said France was a “Jewish-Christian” country.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who heads the party — the main opposition to the governing Socialists — has asked the leadership to withdraw Morano from its list of candidates for the biggest electoral test of 2015.
Morano, a former minister with a reputation for gaffes and unguarded Twitter comments, said in a television interview on Saturday that: “We are a Jewish-Christian country… of white race, which takes in foreigners.”
Sarkozy, who once counted the 51-year-old as one of his closest allies in his government, said: “I will not accept any slip-ups.”
Morano has been condemned from all points of the political spectrum, and the head of The Republicans' list of candidates for eastern France, Philippe Richert, said her comments had had a “devastating effect” on his campaign.
Morano insists she is the victim of a “witchhunt”.
“I said nothing terrible. In fact I don't think I've done anything wrong,” she said.
Support has come from one predictable source — the former leader of the far-right National Front (FN), Jean-Marie Le Pen, who said Morano was “stating the obvious” when she described France as a country of “white race”.