News & Politics

How a French Diplomatic Crisis Involving Javier Bardem Could Impact Washington

The incident involves the rumored new French ambassador.

Has a three-year-old incident involving France, its onetime colony Morocco, and actor Javier Bardem complicated the rumored appointment of a new French ambassador to Washington? No one is speaking officially, but there’s speculation in the international press.

In what’s being described as a crisis in the usually amicable relations between France and Morocco, Bardem reportedly told media at a February 17 news conference a potentially embarrassing anecdote that he said occurred at a documentary screening three years ago. Bardem alleges that a French ambassador said, “Morocco is a mistress who you sleep with every night, who you don’t particularly love but you have to defend.”

Later reports linked the allegation to the UN ambassador, who then was the man who still has the job, Gérard Araud, the same diplomat rumored to be taking over as ambassador to Washington at the beginning of September.

Tuesday, the Moroccan media organization Hespress was quoted as reporting that Araud plans to ask his foreign ministry for permission to sue Bardem.

The first reports of the Bardem anecdote suggested the ambassador who made the “mistress” remark was François Delattre, the current French ambassador to Washington. But the foreign ministry cleared that up Tuesday, stating, “There was no meeting between Ambassador Delattre and Mr. Bardem, which means that the remarks ascribed to Mr. Delattre were not made.”

For those who read French, Le Monde also has an account of the episode. While rumors have floated for a couple of weeks that Araud would replace Delattre on September 1, no one on Wednesday was pushing that agenda.

French President François Hollande, according to Reuters, called Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to defuse the tension from this incident and another over human rights.

No word, though, on the status of the Washington ambassadorial post. Diplomatic dust-ups can impact a new appointment one of three ways: speed it up, slow it down, or end it altogether.