Though Europeans generally rejoiced in Barack Obama's election as 44th President of the United States, a number of leading European lawmakers and journalists have made "foot-in-mouth comments" regarding America's black President-elect, reports the Washington Post.
These include a leading Austrian television journalist, Klaus Emmerich, who a day after the election, said on camera that he "wouldn't want the Western world to be directed by a black man." Emmerich, who works for the country's leading public television station, had previously work in Washington DC as a foreign correspondent. Emmerich told viewers:
"I think the Americans are still racists and they must be very badly off to so spectacularly -- and that has to be said, no doubt -- send a black man with a black, very good-looking and clever woman to the White House."
When he was later asked to apologize, Emmerich told an Austrian newspaper that "blacks are not as politically civilized."
Separately a right-wing member of Poland's Parliament called the election result "the end of the white man's civilization." He added: "America will soon pay a high price for this quirk of democracy."
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who governs with the help of a coalition that includes admirers of Benito Mussolini, last Thursday -- during a visit to Moscow -- praised Obama for being "young, handsome and even suntanned." He later accused his detractors of failing to take a joke.
The Post quotes Yonis Ayeh, a board member with the Initiative of Black People in Germany, saying that:
racial prejudices are common, if not always blatantly expressed. "Sometimes you have people or groups who say, 'We are the left wing, we are the good ones, we are not racist,' " he said. "But it doesn't matter if you are right wing or left wing. It's not just the neo-Nazis and the skinheads."
UPDATE: New York Times Paris correspondent Steven Erlanger filed a front page story for today's edition interviewing immigrants and minorities in France, Italy and Germany about the Obama Effect:
In the general European euphoria over the election of Barack Obama, there is the beginning of self-reflection about Europe's own troubles with racial integration. Many are asking if there could be a French, British, German or Italian Obama, and everyone knows the answer is no, not anytime soon.