PARIS--French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he wanted to "piss off" the non-vaccinated, in a slangy, cutting remark that prompted howls of condemnation from opposition rivals less than 4 months before the next presidential election.
"The unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And so, we're going to continue doing so, until the end. That's the strategy," Macron told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview published late on Tuesday.
France last year put in place a health pass that prevents people without a PCR test or proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, cafes and other venues. The government wants to turn it into a vaccine passport that means only the vaccinated can have a health pass.
"I won't send (the unvaccinated) to prison, I won't vaccinate by force. So we need to tell them, from Jan. 15, you won't be able to go to the restaurant anymore, you won't be able to down one, won't be able to have a coffee, go to the theatre, the cinema..."
The expression "emmerder", from "merde" (shit), that can also be translated as "to get on their nerves", is considered "very informal" by French dictionary Larousse and prompted immediate criticism by rivals on social media.
Macron has been criticised in the past for off-the-cuff remarks which many French people said came across as arrogant, cutting or scornful. He has later expressed contrition on several occasions.
"A president shouldn't say that," far right leader Marine Le Pen said on Twitter. "Emmanuel Macron is unworthy of his office."
In the detailed interview, Macron's first in the new year, the president also said he had a good mind to run for re-election in April, but did not explicitly announce his intention to run. "I would like to do it," Macron said.
As the clear favourite in the polls, Macron has not yet officially said he was running, although his lieutenants are already preparing a campaign.