Conner Rousseau, the leader of the Flemish Socialist Party, expressed regret for his racist statements made last month. He explained that he was under the influence of alcohol and that his remarks were intended to be humorous.
However, his statements sparked outrage among Belgian government officials, who condemned the socialist leader for his offensive comments and deemed his apology inadequate.
In September, Rousseau faced criticism following reports of him making derogatory and discriminatory remarks while speaking with police officers at a festival in the Belgian city of Sint-Niklaas.
At a press conference on Thursday, Rousseau issued a formal apology for his offensive statement towards the Roma community.
According to several local sources, Rousseau stated that the situation does not align with her character. She emphasized that her volunteer efforts, personal identity, and political dedication carry more weight than one regrettable and awkward moment.
Rousseau claimed that he was under the influence and made statements that he would not normally make while sober.
The incident is being investigated by prosecutors, but according to Rousseau, there needs to be a deliberate aspect in order for it to be considered a racist crime.
“The individual must have the intention to cause harm and insult to someone. They must specifically target a particular group. I highly doubt that is the situation. Additionally, considering my emotional state at the time, it is impossible to give weight to what was said,” he stated.
However, Belgian government officials, including those in Rousseau’s own coalition, are not giving him a free pass. He is facing criticism from various groups such as the Flemish CD&V, French-speaking socialists PS, and Ecolo.
Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib stated on social media that racism is still racism even with excuses.
Nadia Naji, president of the Flemish Greens and a coalition partner of Rousseau, stated that racism is always wrong and there are no excuses for it.
Despite facing criticism from coalition parties, the top members of Rousseau’s own party have chosen not to express disapproval.
Rousseau has faced criticism before. Charges for sexual assault were dropped by prosecutors earlier this year. He also received backlash last year for making controversial remarks about the Brussels district of Molenbeek. Rousseau stated that he doesn’t feel like he’s in Belgium when driving through the area, which was seen as racist by many.
Reporting was contributed by Barbara Moens.