The Associated Press was forced to backtrack after being mercilessly mocked for a tweet instructing journalists not to call French people “the French.”
In a tweet posted Thursday morning, the AP Stylebook instructed journalists who work with the organization not to use “dehumanizing” collective terms for people, such as “the French.” The tweet was roundly mocked by, among many others, the French Embassy in the United States. The AP walked back its tweet Friday, but that did not make it any better.
“We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing ‘the’ labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college-educated. Instead, use wording such as people with mental illnesses,” the AP Stylebook wrote in the now-deleted tweet. “And use these descriptions only when clearly relevant.”
The tweet was almost immediately and mercilessly mocked by Twitter users on all sides.
“I agree, these days we probably should label ‘the college-educated’ people with mental illnesses instead,” Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro replied to the AP’s tweet. “Also, we should stop calling people ‘the French’ and instead call them ‘people suffering from cheese-eating surrender monkeyness,’” he added.
“I agree; ‘People suffering from pretension’ is much more humane than simply ‘the French,’” Spencer Klavan, associate editor of the Claremont Review of Books, wrote.
“I believe the correct AP label is ‘the/those f***ing French,’” said comedian Jon Stewart.
“My favorite movie is The Connection With Frenchness,” comedian Jeremy McClellan tweeted.
“The AP has declared the word ‘the’ offensive,” Babylon Bee editor-in-chief Kyle Mann wrote. “I thought this was a @TheBabylonBee story for a second – and I run The Babylon Bee.”
Twitter CEO Elon Musk even got in on the dogpile. “So then why do call yourself ‘The’ Associated Press 😂,” Musk tweeted.
The mockery came to a head when none other than the French themselves joined in mocking the AP’s tweet. “I guess this is us now…” the French Embassy in the United States tweeted, including a screenshot changing its handle to “Embassy of Frenchness in the US.”
I guess this is us now… https://t.co/YFybgfI2AB pic.twitter.com/LrKvgjiw1X
— French Embassy U.S. (@franceintheus) January 26, 2023
A spokesman for the embassy said they were perplexed by the outlet singling them out. “We just wondered what the alternative to the French would be,” French embassy spokesman Pascal Confavreux told The New York Times. “I mean, really.”
The Associated Press was forced to delete the tweet and rework its guidance on Friday. “We deleted an earlier tweet because of an inappropriate reference to French people,” AP Stylebook wrote. “We did not intend to offend.” The outlet did, however, reaffirm its position that journalists in its collective should not use “the” labels for groups of people, because doing so “can sound dehumanizing and imply a monolith rather than diverse individuals.” Instead of using terms like “the mentally ill” or “the wealthy,” the AP Stylebook recommends the use of phrases like “people with mental illnesses” or “wealthy people.”
But that walk-back was met with even more mockery online.
“The must be the first time in history that someone has surrendered to the French,” journalist David Gardner wrote.
“THE woke!” Indiana Republican Congressman Jim Banks added.
“‘An inappropriate reference to French people’ is somehow even funnier than anything in the first tweet,” video game journalist Giovanni Colantonio chimed in.
“THE Ohio State University has entered into the chat,” one user added.