PARIS — The conservative party of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday excluded one of its most high-profile figures from running in December regional elections after she said that France is a "country of the white race," a remark that caused a scandal reaching beyond the party.
Nadine Morano, minister for professional training when Sarkozy was in office, was unanimously voted off a list in eastern France by the investiture committee of The Republicans, as the former UMPS party is known after a recent name change.
Sarkozy had relied on Morano to stretch the reach of his party to the far right. But her remark Sept. 26 on a popular talk show, repeated several times, caused an uproar — at least in part because it failed to acknowledge the far-flung French population in places like Guadeloupe. It also reduced to non-French the millions of citizens mainly of Arab origin, from North Africa, and others from sub-Saharan Africa.
"France is a country of the white race where we welcome foreigners," she said, voicing concern the migrant influx could change this.
Morano said her remark was taken out of context, and justified it by claiming she was only citing Gen. Charles de Gaulle, a hero to the French. However, scholars have come forth contending he never made such a remark, at least in public.
The uproar put Sarkozy in a bind. He asked his political disciple to express her regrets but she refused, making it impossible for him to save her. Critics said she should have been excluded from the party entirely, and suggested she was looking to profit from the growing popularity in France of the far right, notably the National Front party.
Morano attended Wednesday's session of the European Parliament, where she is a deputy, and did not show up at the meeting at which the decision to exclude her was taken.