French Journalist Under Investigation for ‘Racist’ Question Linking Bed Bug Infestation in Paris to Immigration
Thomas Brooke, Remix, October 4, 2023
A French journalist is under investigation by the country’s broadcasting watchdog for asking his pest control expert guest whether there may be a link between a recent invasion of bedbugs affecting Paris and mass immigration.
Pascal Praud, a 59-year-old presenter on the right-leaning CNews channel, was condemned by media commentators and the left-center French government for asking whether there could be a correlation between the outbreak and an influx of migrants who “do not have the same hygiene conditions” as French residents.
“Do we know why there are more bedbugs today? Is it related to hygiene? I will ask all the questions. There is a lot of immigration at the moment,” Praud said during his interview with Nicolas Roux de Bezieux, an expert on pest control.
“Is it people who do not have the same hygienic conditions as those on French soil who bring them, because they are on the street, because they do not have access to all services like the others? Is this related to this?” he asked.
The suggestion was dismissed by his guest, who told viewers that bed bugs “affect absolutely everyone,” but the line of questioning has since been denounced by certain media outlets and French government ministers.
“I will never accept hate speech in the media,” said French Discrimination Minister Bérangère Couillard, who described Praud’s remarks as “shocking.”
Although there is no evidence that immigrants themselves drive the proliferation of bed bugs due to hygiene habits, it is well established that international travel, including tourism, is a major factor in the spread of the pests. Major cities, such as New York, Paris, and Los Angeles often feature outbreaks at hotels. In addition, migrants increase overcrowding in cities and tend to be placed in cramped living spaces due to a housing shortage affecting the entire Western world. Bed bug outbreaks have often been reported in asylum centers in various European countries.
France is both the most visited country in Europe and features one of the highest levels of immigration, both factors that could be driving the increase in bed bugs. The data shows that France has the largest immigrant population in continental Europe, and also has the largest Muslim population as well.
Nevertheless, the left went on the attack over the comments, with Aurélien Saintoul, an MP for the left-wing populist La France Insoumise party, stating: “These comments are blatantly racist, adding that “the so-called prudence of Praud does not hide the memory of [the 19th-century French right-wing activist Charles] Maurras who affirmed ‘the terrible vermin of the Jews of the East, brings lice, the plague, typhus,’”
A number of left-wing parties across France urged Arcom, the broadcasting watchdog, to review Praud’s conduct.
The presenter, who confirmed he is now under investigation by the French broadcasting regulator, vehemently denied accusations that he is racist and claimed he feels he is being vilified for asking a question.
“Must journalists justify the questions they ask?” Praud asked, adding that his refusal of “uniformity of thought” had led to a media and political pile-on.
The bed bugs crisis has made national headlines as authorities scramble to contain the health situation affecting Paris and other major French cities.
French Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau has urged the public to remain calm and dismissed the notion that France has been “invaded by bed bugs.”
French citizens have taken to social media to show the insects have been regularly spotted in cinemas and on public transport across the French capital, leading Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire to call on the government to take action ahead of next year’s Summer Olympics due to take place in the city.