After presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron visited the Whirlpool factory in Amiens on April 26, people on the internet have been sharing a video of him scrupulously wiping his hands with a baby-wipe. The video is being shared along with the claim that Macron apparently felt dirty after having met the factory workers. Except that the picture circulating on social media was not taken on Wednesday and has been taken out of context...
On Twitter, a tweet from @KimJongUnique, a user who posts anti-Macron tweets and content supporting the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, contained an embedded video showing Macron getting into a car and immediately grabbing a wet-wipe to clean his hands. The tweet has been retweeted nearly 600 times. The tweet's caption reads: "Do give me a Hygiaphone wipe, my dear. These Whirlpool workers are dirty." [Hygiaphone is the French name for the counter windows found in train stations designed to keep a hygienic distance between station staff and customers]. Of course, even apart from the hammed up manner of speaking, the attributed quote is plainly false, seeing as he doesn't say anything of the sort in the attached video.
This video actually comes from a documentary about Macron, which was broadcast on the public French TV channel France 3 on November 21, 2016. 'Macron, la stratégie du météore' looked at the meteoric rise of Macron through France's civil service and into political life. This extract of video comes from a scene where Macron visits some fishermen in the south of France near Montpellier. He gets in their boat and, as journalists snap away, picks up an eel for a photo op. Barely just managing to avoid shuddering, he is clearly repulsed by the eel's sliminess, and immediately afterwards rinses his hands in the lake and then uses the baby wipe when he gets back into the car. Where he immediately begins to praise the people he has just met.
An over-the-top fake story...
This fake story has been making the rounds for months. On January 19, 2017, an internet user shared the same extract from the documentary with the caption, "The Marquis de La Fayette wipes his hands after touching workers, and talks about them as if they were too stupid to understand!"
Elsewhere on the internet, the French satirical website Le Gorafi published an article on June 1, 2016, that led with the headline: "Emmanuel Macron: 'When I shake a poor person's hand, I feel dirty for the rest of the day'". [Le Gorafi is akin to The Onion or The Daily Mash]. This article was reposted on several pro-Front National Facebook groups, while failing to mention that it was a joke and not a real news story.
...that could have consequences for his
These videos taken out of context could have consequences for the frontrunner's election campaign. Emmanuel Macron is one of two candidates heading to the run-off of the French presidential elections, and he is currently leading in the polls. He is fighting an image of being a rich, out-of-touch 'establishment' candidate, whereas the populist candidate Marine Le Pen used the slogan "Au nom du peuple" for the first round of the election: "For the people".
Some workers at Whirlpool even mentioned these false rumours during Macron's visit to the factory on Wednesday. On the candidate's Facebook page, an encounter with several employees of the factory was live-streamed. A journalist from Le Lab d’Europe 1 highlighted one of the questions that a factory worker posed: "We're workers, we have clean hands, will you shake our hands?"
- Worker: Admit that Hollande was bad!
- Macron: Stop...
- Worker, laughing: Say it off the record, turn off the microphone...
- Worker: We're workers, we have clean hands, will you shake our hands?
- Macron: I have always shaken anyone's hand.
Employees at the Whirpool factory in Amiens have been on strike since Monday and have been fighting against the proposed move of the site to Poland, planned for June 2018, which would threaten 600 jobs.