Wednesday, 11 November 2020
A comment made by Belgian MEP Johan Van Overtveldt about the sexuality of a journalist during a press conference caused some controversy on social media.
On Tuesday, Van Overtveldt, as Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets, spoke at a press conference of European Parliament negotiators for the next multi-annual EU budget.
After his speech, Flemish VRT journalist Riadh Bahri was the first one to ask a question. The spokesperson announced him as “Miss Bahri,” which Van Overtveldt quickly corrected by saying “It’s mister.”
While waiting for Bahri’s microphone to connect, Van Overtveldt added “He’s gay.” The words were intended for his fellow negotiators, but could be heard live by everyone following the press conference.
Hallucinant. Persco @jvanovertveldt. Woordvoerder geeft woord à Miss Bahri. JVO corrigeert: “it’s Mister Bahri”. En vindt het nodig aan te vullen met “he’s gay”
— Orry Van de Wauwer (@orry_vdw) November 10, 2020
A video of the moment and the comment were posted on Twitter, where the scene was called “hallucinatory”, “not relevant” and “inappropriate.”
Paul Magnette, chairman of the Francophone socialist PS party, called Van Overtveldt a “perfect fool,” and Belgium’s Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi tweeted that he “would like an explanation.”
On Tuesday evening, Van Overtveldt tweeted that he called Bahri as soon as he could to speak about the incident. “Under no circumstances did I intend to hurt anyone. So I apologise.”
Ik heb @Riadh_B zo snel mogelijk gebeld. We hebben erover gesproken. Het was in geen enkel geval de bedoeling iemand te kwetsen. Mijn excuses dus.
— Johan Van Overtveldt (@jvanovertveldt) November 10, 2020
The Brussels Times