Published February 19, 2003
NEW YORK – Jokes about France are plentiful lately, but many Americans aren't laughing at the European country's resistance to using force with Iraq -- and are fighting back by closing their wallets.
In fact, beaucoup d'Americans have decided to boycott French products such as wine and cheese, in an effort to hurt the country's economy.
Fromage.com, a French cheese distributor, reported that its sales to the United States have gone down 15 percent in the past two weeks. Some U.S. eateries are no longer offering French wines. And a restaurant in North Carolina has even changed the name of its fries.
Neal Rowland, who owns Cubbie's restaurant in Beaufort, N.C., said he decided to put stickers that say "Freedom" over the word "French" on all his menus after he watched France back away from support for war in Iraq.
"Since the French are backing down, French fries and French everything needs to be banned," he told Foxnews.com in a telephone interview. "Fry sales have really gone up. People who eat them now say, 'Freedom never tasted so good.'"
Rowland cooked up the freedom fry idea last week after a conversation with a customer about World War I days, when anti-German sentiment prompted Americans to rename familiar German foods. Sauerkraut and frankfurters became liberty cabbage and hot dogs.
And Rowland said patrons have been in full support of the fry renaming.
"I had a gentleman come in today, who works at the court house, and he was crying, his son is serving in Afghanistan and he said he was so glad someone is taking a stand," said Rowland. "He was proud to see the support in the community for the troops."
If the backlash is strong enough, it could impact the French economy -- American trade with France tops $30 billion a year.
But some French aren't amused by, or afraid of, the boycott.
"Well, if they prefer to eat American food, it is entirely their problem," Guillaume Parmentier, the head of the French Centre on the United States, told the Canadian new service CBC.ca. "But seriously. This never works. Boycotts work when there are grave human rights violations or something like that."
U.S. lawmakers are also eager to remind the French that Americans bailed them out in both World Wars, at a cost of tens of thousands of lives. Some in Congress are even pursuing possible trade restrictions.
Rep. H. James Saxton, a New Jersey Republican, has drafted a resolution that calls for a U.S. boycott of the Paris Air Show this spring.
"If [the Chirac government] fails to find a way to cooperate, we'll urge U.S. citizens, companies and the military to forego participation," Saxton told WorldNetDaily.com.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert said he'd like to target bottled French mineral water and wine. He has instructed Republican colleagues to determine whether Congress should pass laws that would impose new health standards on bottles of Evian and other French waters.
According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, France is the leading exporter of water to the United States and sold 65 million gallons last year.
It's not the first time Americans have boycotted French products. Back in 1985 when the French would not allow U.S. military planes to fly over their airspace on their way to bomb Libya, U.S. consumers boycotted industries, including fashion, food and wine. And a similar boycott happened in 1995 and 1996 when France refused to stop testing nuclear weapons in the South Pacific.
But Boris Marchand-Tonnel of the French-U.S. chamber of commerce in Paris played down the threat.
"Maybe in a few New York restaurants, a few clients will refuse to order French wine," he told The Guardian. "But it's peanuts against the overall picture, it's really just symbolic."
Whether the boycott impacts the French economy or not, Americans from Congress to Cubbie's are saying the French can "faux-get" our future support and money.
Rowland said one freedom fry eater told him: "On Sept. 11 if a plane had slammed into the Eiffel Tower I guarantee the French would've been on the phone to the Americans saying, 'Please, we need help.' It's time for them to step up to the plate and help us."
Fox News' Trace Gallagher and The Associated Press contributed to this report.