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‘I regret that I’ve hurt people with my words,’ says President Macron

The president outlined his hopes, plans and regrets in a two-hour TV interview. We look at the main points

President Emmanuel Macron gave a long TV interview on December 15, but still has not announced himself as a candidate for next year’s presidential elections Pic: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

President Emmanuel Macron opened up on regrets he has from his time in power, the challenges of Covid and his thoughts on mandatory vaccinations in a two-hour televised interview yesterday (December 15). 

At one point, he told TF1 journalists that some of the things he has said while in power have “hurt people”, a fact he now regrets. 

We look at the key points of the extended interview, which was viewed by 3.82 million people - a relatively small amount compared to other popular shows. 

The possibility of mandatory Covid vaccines ‘exists’

The president was first of all asked about the coronavirus pandemic. 

His response was to encourage people to get their Covid shots.

"We must vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,” he said.

“I invite everyone to make an appointment, because even when you have had your two doses, after a few months, you are not protected enough.”

He also broached the subject of mandatory vaccination, which he said was a possibility, but that France has already practically reached that stage anyway.

“We're almost [there already], when you have 90% of the people who can get vaccinated who have done so.”

He said that the virus spread easily among young people, and urged parents to encourage their children to get vaccinated, while ultimately leaving them the choice. 

A president ‘humbled’ by the pandemic

Mr Macron said he had been humbled by the challenges of the pandemic.

“It made me aware of the most unbearable inequalities, especially when I met parents in Seine-Saint-Denis who told me that if their children did not go to school, they would not be able to eat,” he said.

Towards the end of the interview, he also sentimentally spoke of his love for France.

“I have learned to love the French more. I love France even more madly than before. We are people who trusted a young man of 39 years old,” he said. 

Mr Macron was elected president in 2017, when he was 39. 

‘I hurt people with my words’

The president admitted that he has said some hurtful things to people during his time in power.

“In some of the things I said, I hurt people. I think you can move things along without hurting people, and that's what I won't do again. At the time I did it, I didn't realise that I was hurting [people],” he said.

He was mainly referring to a series of comments made in 2017 and 2018. For example, in 2017 he was quoted as saying: “A railway station is a place where you meet people who are successful and people who are nothing”. In the same year he said, “the best way to afford a suit is to work”. 

In 2018 an infamous incident took place when he told a young unemployed man that he could “cross the road” and find him a job.

Mr Macron was accused by his detractors of class contempt after these comments. 

“The sentence that is unacceptable is the one where I talk about 'successful people and those who are nothing,” he said yesterday, admitting that he regretted some of his phrases. 

By way of justification, he said that today we live in a society of “decontextualisation”. 

Macron still not presidential candidate

Despite speaking at length, Mr Macron still did not officially declare himself as a candidate for next year’s presidential election. 

“As I speak, I still have to make decisions and get past the fifth wave [of Covid],” he said.

“Yes, I have ambitions for my country, but I still have to attend to my current responsibilities.”

His opponents in the presidential election, such as Les Républicains’ Valérie Pécresse and the Greens’ Yannick Jadot, criticised him for using the interview to campaign rather than to set out real strategies for the pandemic and other reforms. 

Related stories:

France’s 2022 presidential election hopefuls race to find 500 backers

French presidential candidate Zemmour: key points of heated TV debate

Right-wing Valérie Pécresse voted presidential candidate for 2022 run

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