French President Emmanuel Macron is a world leader keenly aware of his international image — and so he may have been taken aback when one of Australia's leading newspapers depicted him as an amorous and narcissistic French skunk on its front page.
The Daily Telegraph dubbed Macron “President Pepé Le Pew” on Thursday after the French leader publicly told Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that his wife was “delicious” in front of a crowd of journalists.
“I want to thank you for your welcome, thank you and your delicious wife for your warm welcome,” Macron told Turnbull at the end of a news conference in Sydney on Wednesday, referring to Lucy Turnbull.
Macron, who prides himself on speaking English in foreign appearances and only last week addressed the U.S. Congress in English, appeared to have made a linguistic slip-up during his visit to Australia.
While the English word “delicious” is generally used for food and sometimes has a sexual connotation, the French word “délicieuse” is more versatile and can be used in certain contexts to mean “lovely” or “charming.”
Though Macron’s unfortunate wording quickly went viral on the Internet, some critics wondered if the Daily Telegraph, a center-right tabloid owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, went too far in depicting the French leader as Pepé Le Pew, a well-known Warner Bros. cartoon character first introduced in 1945.
“What a horrible error in judgement,” wrote one Australian Twitter user in response to the front page.
Macron, however, seemed to see the funny side of it. The French president’s official photographer, Soazig de la Moissonnière, later posted an image of him sharing a laugh with a colleague while looking at the front page.
Shortly before he left Australia on Thursday, Macron told journalists he had found the front page funny. “A newspaper had some fun and it made me laugh a lot, especially since in the original cartoon the character has a French accent,” Macron said.
Turnbull also told reporters that he and his wife were far from offended by Macron’s “delicious” comment and that, unlike the persistent but unrequited affections of Pepé Le Pew, the French leader had made a deep impression on them.
“Lucy was very flattered. She was very flattered,” Turnbull said Thursday. “She’s asked me to say that she found the president’s compliment as charming as it was memorable. It was a great visit. President Macron charmed Australia. He certainly charmed all of us, all the Turnbulls.”