Monkey pox: Aurélien Pradié (LR) speaks of “shame for the monkeys” and causes a stir

It’s a short sentence that many have discovered by reading the minutes of the National Assembly’s session of August 2, 2022. MP Sandrine Rousseau questioned the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health on the issue of the vaccination campaign against smallpox of the monkey. While referring to the very name of “monkey pox” which could, according to the ecologist, amplify the stigmatization of infected people, the deputy Les Républicains Aurélien Pradié launched: “It’s especially a shame for the monkeys!”

The statement, spotted this August 3 on social networks, sparked outrage. “Ordinary homophobia”, “#CesGensLà [en référence aux propos de Caroline Cayeux] we would shame the monkeys”, “Aurelien Pradié affirms that monkeys should be ashamed of being associated with people infected with monkeypox (which currently affects mainly gay and bi men) #PradiéResignation”… misunderstanding and anger dominated at this statement.

Sandrine Rousseau herself admitted not having heard this sentence when she spoke. “I hadn’t heard it in the hubbub of the moment. Aurelien Pradié, you must apologize. I will seize the president of the Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet, she writes on Twitter. Sanction requested against Aurelien Pradié for homophobia following his remarks on the Monkey Pox [nom anglais de la variole du singe] in a hemicycle. Homophobia is a crime. Don’t miss anything.”

Aurélien Pradié’s counter-attack

The main interested party, contacted by RTL, prefers the counter-attack to contrition. “I did not make these comments. Ms. Sandrine Rousseau had just made a long development on the name of monkey pox and, I no longer know what I said exactly, but I think I said that ‘the subject was not the name of the disease’, he defends himself. The subject is not the honor of the monkeys but of the people affected by smallpox. The term smallpox is already stigmatizing enough as it is for those infected. Besides, this is not a subject that only concerns men who have sex with other men, but the population as a whole.

And Aurélien Pradié to continue: “In no case did I have homophobic remarks, in no case, he confided to RTL. And I do not appreciate the method very much. I find Madame Rousseau’s posture as a lesson giver, an inquisitor unbearable who should also take care of the problems in his camp [en référence au conflit entre la députée et Eric Coquerel dont elle a demandé la mise en retrait].”

Asked once again about the hurtful nature of his sentence and the reactions on social networks, Aurélien Pradié concedes: “I don’t think I said that. At least, not with the intention that I am given. If I thought a such a thing, we would know. I have never been homophobic and I’ve never said anything like that. But if this sentence hurt anyone, of course I regret it.”

After Sandrine Rousseau’s point of order, who called for Aurélien Pradié to be sanctioned, the LR deputy replied on Twitter: “I will always fight against homophobia and all forms of discrimination. Always. Iimagining for a single second that I wanted to say such a thing is sickening. To those who believed it and were hurt, I say my deep sadness. Respect for all is my life.”

A name deemed stigmatizing by scientists

About thirty scientists, had requested, in June, “a nomenclature [de la variole du singe] which is neither discriminatory nor stigmatizing” and which would allow to account for the current reality of the epidemic. According to the virologist Oyewale Tomori, at the origin of this request, the disease is not even linked to monkeys”: “the name monkey pox is misleading”. This name is actually a creation of Danish researchers who discovered the disease, in the 1950s, in their laboratory, in monkeys. However, it was mainly caught by rodents.

The researcher Moses John Bockarie also indicates the stigmatizing nature of the expression “monkey pox” because “monkeys are generally associated with countries of the South, in particular Africa”. The continent has often been targeted as the home of many diseases. Epidemiologist Oliver Restif continues: “We especially saw that with AIDS in the 1980s, Ebola during the 2013 epidemic, then with Covid and the supposed “South African variants”. The epidemiologist also regretted the “old photographs of African patients” to illustrate the articles, while the current cases “are much less serious”.

Since the spread of this disease in the West and particularly among men who have sex with other men or sex workers (priority populations to have access to the vaccine in France for example), associations have noted a resurgence of homophobic attacks . “We received calls explaining to us that we were demons. And that even if we had ‘overtaken’ AIDS, other curses should still fall on homosexuals“, explained the community manager of Stop Homophobia to our colleagues from Numerama.

UNAIDS published a statement in May to alert on “the stigmatizing rhetoric which jeopardizes public health” and expressed “concern over the rhetoric and imagery used in some public reports and comments on monkeypox, particularly the portrayal of LGBTI and ethnic African.” The organization also pointed out that this “approach reinforces homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbates stigma.”

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Monkey pox: Aurélien Pradié (LR) speaks of “shame for the monkeys” and causes a stir