A Reporter's Grudge Against France's Tough-on-Crime Candidate

As tough-on-crime French candidate Nicholas Sarkozy maintains his lead for the upcoming presidential elections in France, Paris correspondent Elaine Sciolino continued her attacks on him Friday in "French Presidential Candidate Skips Visit as Protesters Gather." The text box: "A conservative has alienated many in ethnic districts."

Sciolino has no criticism for the violent protesters, only for Sarkozy, who raised his profile with a strong response to the 2005 rioting and car-burning in French suburbs dominated by Muslim immigrants.

"The conservative presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy abruptly canceled a campaign visit to a neighborhood of the eastern city of Lyon on Thursday as protesters gathered there, warning that he would not be welcome.

"About 100 demonstrators gathered in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood in central Lyon, some brandishing signs that read, 'Sarkozy, you are not welcome here,' others shouting, 'Scum' and 'Karcher.'

"Some supporters of Mr. Sarkozy shouted, 'Sarkozy, president,' but were drowned out by the demonstrators.

"The words 'scum' and 'Karcher' have come to be both identified with Mr. Sarkozy and emblematic of his difficult relationship with France's ethnic Arab and African populations. As France's law-and-order interior minister, a job he left last week, Mr. Sarkozy alienated a huge swath of inhabitants in the troubled ethnic pockets of France.

"In 2005, he vowed to clean out young troublemakers from one Paris suburb with a Karcher, the brand name of a high-powered hose used to wash off graffiti, and also pledged to rid poor neighborhoods of their 'scum.'

"Mr. Sarkozy, who is leading in the polls against 11 rivals for the April 22 first-round vote, has kept away from the tough neighborhoods in the suburbs that were consumed by three weeks of violence in late 2005. The Thursday demonstration underscored what some opponents claim: that he is too politically radioactive to venture into such places. Mr. Sarkozy headed straight from the airport to the next stop on his itinerary, an upholstery warehouse in the Lyon suburb of Villeurbanne."

"There, he said that the cancellation of the visit was because of the late arrival of his plane, not the protest. He suggested that the protest had been staged by left-wing activists.

"But Mr. Sarkozy has not fulfilled a promise to return to Argenteuil, where he used the term 'scum' and was pelted with bottles and rocks in 2005. A planned campaign trip was canceled after the police found gasoline bombs in an apartment complex."

Potential life-threatening attacks sound like as a good reason as any not to "fulfill a promise," but Sciolino doesn't dwell on the scum that have attacked Sarkozy, but on Sarkozy daring to call the hooligans by their true name.