A campaign video for the Francophone liberal MR party, posted by its leader Georges-Louis Bouchez on social media, has put the party at the centre of another political controversy, as the video includes racist remarks that are at no point contradicted by Bouchez.
In the video, Bouchez talks to people on the street and answers their questions. The first frames of the two-minute clip, however, show a woman making racist and insulting comments about the Brussels population, without any context given.
"For a foreigner who comes from any country and who comes to the capital of Brussels, I would say that it looks like we are in Congo," she said. "But if you go further out, to Flanders, the law is the law."
While the remark about the "dirtiness of Brussels," insulting the Democratic Republic of Congo in the process, did not come from Bouchez himself, at no point did he intervene, contradict or reframe what the interviewee was saying. The passage then only serves to launch a topic on the employment rate in the Brussels-Capital Region.
Not long after the video was published, a number of people took to social media to criticise not only the woman's racist words and MR's choice to use them in the video, but also Bouchez' lack of response.
"The presumed link with dirtiness. The false distancing that would make racist comments acceptable because they were made by a citizen," said François De Smet, president of Brussels' independent DéFi party and Federal MP. "MR's compulsive 'Brussels bashing' cannot justify such methods."
"On dirait qu'on est au Congo"... Le lien présumé avec la saleté... La fausse distanciation qui rendrait acceptables des propos racistes parce que tenus par une citoyenne... Le "Bruxelles bashing" compulsif du MR ne peut justifier de pareilles méthodes.#fierdetrecaricatural— François De Smet 🇧🇪🇪🇺🇺🇦 (@francoisdesmet) August 9, 2022
Also on Twitter, Alexis Mathieu, in charge of the leftist PTB à Braine-l’Alleud municipality just outside of Brussels, commented that "the trivialisation of racism in this video is disgusting. Every day you go further in this electoral method. Besides, you are not against what this person says, you do not even contradict her."
When another user replied to the video, questioning that Bouchez's first reaction to someone telling him that 'Brussels is dirty' and that 'it looks like we are in Congo' is talking about the employment rate in the Capital-Region, Bouchez said that his answer was more general.
'Political solutions without highlighting racism'
"I answered more broadly but you have to listen to everything to know," Bouchez tweeted. "I also explain that improving the employment rate automatically improves all the other parameters. A bit of economics helps to understand this."
In the meantime, Kalvin Soiresse Njall, a Brussels Green MP, also took to Twitter to call out Bouchez.
"Associating an entire country and its people with dirtiness is one of the worst racist and xenophobic representations in history," he said. "One can come up with political solutions without highlighting such racist statements. Saying these things and giving them visibility, that is dirtiness."
Associer un pays entier, des populations à de la saleté fait partie des pires représentations racistes et xénophobes de l'histoire. On peut décliner des solutions politiques sans mettre en lumière de tels propos racistes. Tenir ces propos et les visibiliser, c'est ça la saleté. https://t.co/aiPbZPJLY1— Kalvin Soiresse Njall (@SoiresseKalvin) August 8, 2022