French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to convince the Yellow Vest protesters that he’s not an out-of-touch elitist.
But his bid to reconnect with voters hit another snag on Tuesday with an attack on feckless poor people.
“For people in a difficult situation, we will try to make them take more responsibility,” he said in the northern French town of Gasny. “Because some are doing the right thing, and some are just messing around.”
Macron had traveled to the town in Normandy — where nationalist leader Marine Le Pen placed first in the 2017 presidential election — to launch a “Grand National Debate” on the country’s future direction, part of his plan to calm the protests that have roiled the country for almost two months.
And yet again, the 41-year-old former investment banker failed to contain his conviction that plenty of those who are struggling to make ends meet have only themselves to blame.
“Part of the treatment of poverty has to focus on the person in the situation of poverty, thinking about them, making them take responsibility, and helping them to get out of it,” he said.
Last summer, he provoked criticism with a video complaining about the “crazy amount of dough” France spends on benefits and he famously told an out-of-work gardener that he simply “had to cross the street” to find work as a waiter.
As those comments sent his approval rating plummeting, Macron vowed to adopt more humility, but he’s had only mixed results.
Just last Friday, he told a meeting of bakers that too many French people “had lost the taste for effort.”