At this week's Republican presidential debate, Jeb Bush had some thoughts about the French work week. On Thursday, the French were less than thrilled with his take -- and the White House found itself caught in the middle.
“The Senate, what is it like a French work week? You get like three days where you have to show up?” the former Florida governor said Wednesday as part of a response needling Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his spotty congressional attendance and voting records as he runs for president.
The French ambassador in Washington responded quickly with a mid-debate fact check: his nation is even more hard-working than its notoriously industrious neighbor, he said.
The French work an average of 39,6 hours a week compared to 39,2 for the Germans. https://t.co/22yUVpQbq7
— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) October 29, 2015
At Thursday's White House press briefing, French reporter Laura Haim asked Press Secretary Josh Earnest about Bush's comment.
"I hope you didn't take that personally, Laura," responded Earnest. "I can vouch for the fact that you certainly work more than most members of Congress."
When Haim called the Bush comment "a big story in France," Earnest at first seemed less than sympathetic.
"You guys are so sensitive!" he joked, adding that he'd "bet you that Governor Bush is just jealous."
Pressed on what President Obama thought about French quality of life, Earnest got serious -- and seemed careful to toe the line between drawing fire from the French for backing Bush's view, and drawing fire from American critics for praising the French. He hadn't spoken with the president about Bush's comments, said Earnest, but knew that Obama had enjoyed his visits to France, and the reception he'd gotten from the French people.
But "does he like our quality of life?" asked Haim.
"It certainly seems to be a quality of life that many French people have warmly embraced," said Earnest. "As they should."