WASHINGTON – In Congress, where everything French is out of vogue, an Ohio congressman invited some trans-Atlantic scorn over comments he made about his French last name.
Republican Rep. Steve Chabot (pronounced SHA-biht) sparked the ire of Josselin de Rohan Chabot (pronounced sha-'BOW), majority leader of the French Senate, when he said France, which opposes a war in Iraq, may need a history lesson.
"It troubles me, as one with the surname of Chabot ... to say this, but one would think that the French, of all people, would be quick to understand the high price of appeasement," he said, referring to World War II.
That prompted a letter from the French lawmaker.
"Unlike you, I am not ashamed of my name, which has been borne from the crusades to now on by honest, dignified, often courageous and even illustrious people," he wrote.
The Chabot name is respected in France and the family has included four members of parliament and many priests and soldiers, he said.
"I would see no objection in you changing your name into a more British patronymic if you find yours too difficult to bear," wrote the French lawmaker.
The Ohio Chabot fired back a response and enclosed a copy of the transcript from the House International Relations Committee hearing where he made the comments, and said the French lawmaker had misunderstood.
"I'm not ashamed of my name nor my heritage, but I am very disappointed in the French government. I am, in fact, appalled at their deplorable behavior," he said Thursday.
In the letter to Rohan Chabot, the Ohio lawmaker pointed out that thousands of American soldiers were buried in France after they gave their lives in defense of the country.
"Sadly, France no longer behaves like a friend and ally of my country," he wrote.