TORONTO – Prime Minister Jean Chretien's communications director resigned Tuesday over a controversy caused by her private comment last week that President Bush is a moron.
Francoise Ducros, who initially offered to quit but was kept on by Chretien, is leaving the prime minister's office after all, according to a statement issued by Chretien's chief of staff.
In a letter of resignation to Chretien, Ducros wrote: "It is very apparent to me that the controversy will make it impossible for me to do my job."
"I would therefore like to leave my position as director of communications immediately," the letter said. "I am grateful for the support you have given me during this difficult time."
Chretien accepted the resignation this time, responding in a letter: "In your almost four years as director of communications, you have served the government as a whole, and me personally, with extraordinary skill and dedication."
The comment made in a discussion with a radio reporter last week at the NATO summit in Prague, Czech Republic, has dominated Canadian media, and opposition politicians have called for her resignation.
"What a moron," is the quote attributed to Ducros during what she called a private conversation with a reporter that was overhead by other reporters who wrote about it.
She apologized last week, but the furor has continued in Canada. On Monday, some opposition members of Parliament noted the comment appeared in an Iraqi newspaper editorial, characterized as Western opposition to Bush.
Chretien initially tried to play down the incident, telling a Prague news conference the comment was unfortunate and that Bush was a friend of his "and not a moron at all."
He also denied that the comment harmed relations with Washington, saying he received no official complaints from U.S. officials at the summit.
Conservative media and political foes, however, characterized the moron comment as a signal of worsening relations between the North American neighbors who share the world's largest trade partnership.
When asked about the comment last week, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer dismissed it as "something from someone who doesn't speak for the Canadian government."