Canton Repository

March 12, 2003

Congressman forbids ‘French’ in government restaurant menus

Copley Washington correspondent

FROM FRENCH TO FREEDOM. Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, has ordered the word “French” stricken from the menu at government-owned restaurants serving members of Congress, their staffs and visitors to Capitol Hill and replaced with the word “freedom.” French fries and french toast are now freedom fries and freedom toast.

WASHINGTON — It’s not the first time that Rep. Bob Ney has exercised the special powers he possesses as chairman of the House Administration Committee.

But the action Ney took Tuesday could be unprecedented in the immediate impact it will have on hundreds of people — assuming, that is, that they make it to breakfast or lunch.

In protest against France’s opposition to a U.S.-led war in Iraq, Ney has ordered the word “French” — as in french fries and french toast — stricken from the menu at government-owned restaurants serving members of Congress, their staffs and visitors to Capitol Hill.

“Freedom fries” and “freedom toast” are the new terms that will be used in compliance with Ney’s declaration. Ney was able to order the change because the committee he leads has jurisdiction over House operations.

Scrapping “French” shows support for the more than 200,000 U.S. troops who are massing to invade Iraq unless Baghdad voluntarily gives up the biological and chemical weapons that the Bush administration says the nation possesses.

“I’m of French descent so I’m not against French descent obviously,” Ney, R-St. Clairsville, said during the lunch rush Tuesday. “But the French government is pure, dead wrong.”

In the past, he said, the United States was there for France when it needed help. “We need them (now) and they should be there.”

The idea to replace “French” with “freedom” came from Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who had heard about a restaurant in his state that eliminated French from its menu two months ago.

“I think the French have shown a certain amount of arrogance,” Jones said. “This is our way ... to say to the French government, ‘OK, fine, now we’re going to call your french fries, which have been known since Day One of this great nation — we’re going to call them freedom fries.’ ”

The Embassy of France in Washington at first declined to comment on Ney’s toast and fries initiative.

“There is no official reaction because we are working on serious matters,” embassy spokeswoman Nathalie Loiseau said. “We are working on very serious questions for the time being. We are not working on potatoes.”

But pressed, Loiseau raised objections that go beyond the question of Iraq policy and strike at the very heart of the controversy. French fries and french toast are not even French, she insisted.

In Europe, she said, french fries are “supposed to be Belgian. It’s where they are mostly served.”

And as far as the French are concerned, french toast is British. She said the ban on “French” as applied to fries and toast “will never be understood in Europe.”

Loiseau expressed concern over anti-French attitudes she sees developing.

“I’m certain that public opinion in France would be very sad and very shocked to hear about unfriendly behavior in the United States,” she lamented.