UMP officials on Friday sought to defend Brice Hortefaux, an ally of President Nicolas Sarkozy, following allegations that he made anti-Arab remarks during a meeting of the ruling party last weekend.
A video distributed on the internet shows Hortefeux at the meeting in southwest France being photographed with a party member of North African origin, while voices in the primarily white crowd are heard referring to "integration".
Hortefeux was recorded as saying: "[The North African man] doesn't fit the prototype at all. We always need one.
"When there's one, that's all right. It's when there are a lot of them that there are problems."
Hortefeux has denied that he made any racist remark, and on Thursday moved to account for his remarks.
"We cracked a few jokes about his origins, my attachment to Auvergne, and about the fact that I could speak Auvergnat [a dialect spoken in France] but I mentioned that I could not... that a few pictures would be fine but I couldn't stay for more because I needed to leave," he said.
"That's all it was. And once again, not a word from me makes any allusion to a geographic community or origin," Hortefeux told reporters on Thursday.
Segolene Royal, a former Socialist Party presidential candidate, said that Hortefaux "has to apply to himself what he is preaching to others", in reference to his sacking of Paul Girot de Langlade, a senior French prefect who was accused of making racist remarks.
Source: Al Jazeera (English)