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Home --> Questionable Quotes --> French Lesson

French Lesson

Claim:   President George W. Bush proclaimed, "The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur."

Status:   False.

Origins:   Yet another George W. Bush "George W. Bush is dumb" story has been taken up by those who like their caricatures drawn in stark, bold lines. According to scuttlebutt that emerged in the British press in July 2002, President Bush, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, and France's President Jacques Chirac were discussing economics and, in particular, the decline of the French economy. "The problem with the French," Bush afterwards confided in Blair, "is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur."

The source was Shirley Williams, also known as the Baroness Williams of Crosby, who claimed "my good friend Tony Blair" had recently regaled her with this anecdote in Brighton.

Lloyd Grove of The Washington Post was unable to reach Baroness Williams to gain her confirmation of the tale, but he did receive a call from Alastair Campbell, Blair's director of communications and strategy. "I can tell you that the prime minister never heard George Bush say that, and he certainly never told Shirley Williams that President Bush did say it," Campbell told The Post. "If she put this in a speech, it must have been a
joke."

This is far from the first time Bush has been made the butt of a jibe meant to showcase what some perceive as his less than stellar intellectual abilities. Without straining our memories too hard, we can come up with three other instances we've chronicled on this site. In the summer of 2001, the joke of the moment centered upon a supposed study that had resulted in the ranking of Presidential IQs, with George W. Bush being pegged as the Chief Executive who scraped the bottom of the intelligence barrel. In December 2000 it was a fake Nostradamus quatrain which pontificated that the "village idiot" would win the 2000 Presidential election. And in the spring of 2002, it was the story of Bush's waving at Stevie Wonder that set folks to chortling up their sleeves.

Stories that illustrate this widely believed intellectual shortcoming will always waft after George W. Bush because they seemingly confirm what many already hold as true about this public figure, that he's not the brightest fellow that's ever been. It is human nature to revel in yarns that the hearer at some level agrees with, thus tales of this sort will always fall upon appreciative ears.

Barbara "ears of corn" Mikkelson

Last updated:   23 September 2007

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  Sources Sources:
    Fitchett, Joseph.   "The Global Class: Word for It."
    The International Herald Tribune.   11 July 2002   (p. 18).

    Grove, Lloyd.   "The Reliable Source."
    The Washington Post.   10 July 2002   (p. C3).

    Malvern, Jack.   "Bush and Blair."
    The [London] Times.   9 July 2002   (p. 18).

    Smith, Liz.   "Stovepipe Dreams."
    Newsday.   12 July 2002   (p. A13).