French media mocked President Francois Hollande on Tuesday after he described sexual orientation as “a choice”, in his reaction to the Orlando gay nightclub massacre, comments that had provoked outrage on social media.
In Orlando, “it is America that has been hit but it is also freedom, the freedom to choose one’s sexual orientation and to determine one’s style of life”, Hollande said in condemning “the appalling homophobic killing in Orlando.”
Hollande was speaking as he left the US embassy in Paris on Monday, where he had expressed France’s condolences over the massacre of 50 people in Orlando at the weekend.
The comments, in front of television cameras and released later on the president’s Twitter account, immediately sparked a storm on social media, with many pointing out that sexual orientation is innate and not a lifestyle choice.
“Francois Hollande tweets that homosexuality is a choice! No, what country are we living in?” said one tweet.
“Hollande talks about ‘the freedom to choose one’s sexual orientation.’ Can someone explain it to him?” said another.
The president’s office quickly replaced the offending phrase with “freedom to live your sexual orientation and choose your style of life.”
But the French press was virtually unanimous on Tuesday in accusing Hollande of committing a “gaffe”.
“Francois Hollande learns that one can choose one’s words but not one’s sexual orientation,” quipped the newspaper Le Monde. Europe1 radio station described his comment as “a huge blunder.”