In Pictures: Top French politician left unconscious after being confronted by member of public

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a former conservative presidential candidate, was left unconscious lying on the ground for several minutes on Thursday after an altercation with a member of the public as she campaigned for the French parliamentary elections.

In Pictures: Top French politician left unconscious after being confronted by member of public
All photos: AFP

According to an AFP reporter who witnessed the incident, Kosciusko, known in France as NKM, was approached by a man as she handed out campaign leaflets at a market in the fifth arrondissement of Paris, where she is hoping to be elected MP.

The man, aged in his 50s, called the former minister a dirty 'bobo', a term that comes from a blend of bourgeois and bohemian and is often used in a derogatory way to describe Paris's wealthy middle class young professionals.

He also shouted “It's your fault we have Anne Hidalgo as mayor” referring to the fact NKM lost out to Hidalgo in the 2014 mayoral race. He also yelled  “go back to l'Essonne”, the department near Paris for which she is currently an MP.

Some reports say he then tried to hit her while BFM TV said she was violently pushed by the man.

Others suggested she fell when trying to protect herself when he threw her leaflets in her face. 

She lost consciousness for several minutes after apparently hitting her head as she fell.

The shaved headed man, dressed in a shirt and chinos, ran off to the nearest Metro station.

According to reports a memebr of NKM's team followed him on the Metro and later confronted him before being attacked.

He was not known to the candidate's campaign team, Le Parisien newspaper reports.

NKM, who lost out to François Fillon in last year's right-wing presidential primary, was reportedly treated at the scene by paramedics before being taken to hospital.

She has received messages of solidarity from many disgusted French politicians from all sides including Socialist Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who strongly condemned the man's actions calling it a “cowardly and intolerable” act.

Former Socialist PM Manuel Valls also expressed his solidarity to NKM saying “nothing could justify this intolerable act”.

Fellow conservative, and another beaten presidential candidate, Alain Juppé sent NKM his best wishes and commended her courage.

She was also visited in hospital by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

“I condemn this intolerable act of violence,” said the PM.

NKM, 44, is campaigning ahead of the second round of France's parliamentary election this Sunday.

The former minister and spokeswoman under ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy faces a battle to win a seat in her central Paris constituency against Gilles Le Gendre from the Republic on the Move party of President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Gendre anonced on Thursday that he was suspending his campaign in light of what had happened to his opponent.





German Greens’ chancellor candidate Baerbock targeted by fake news

With Germany's Green party leading the polls ahead of September's general elections, the ecologists' would-be successor to Angela Merkel has become increasingly targeted by internet trolls and fake news in recent weeks.

German Greens' chancellor candidate Baerbock targeted by fake news
The Greens chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock on April 26th. Photo: DPA

From wild claims about CO2-emitting cats and dogs to George Soros photo collages, 40-year-old Annalena Baerbock has been the subject of a dizzying array of fake news, conspiracy theories and online attacks since she was announced as the Greens’ chancellor candidate in mid-April.

The latest polls have the Greens either ahead of or level with Merkel’s ruling conservatives, as the once fringe party further establishes itself as a leading electoral force in Europe’s biggest economy.

Baerbock herself also consistently polls higher than her conservative and centre-left rivals in the race to succeed Merkel, who will leave office after 16 years this autumn.

Yet her popularity has also brought about unwanted attention and a glut of fake news stories aimed at discrediting Baerbock as she bids to become Germany’s first Green chancellor.


False claims

Among the false stories circulating about Baerbock is the bizarre claim that she wants to ban household pets in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Another fake story firmly denied by the party claimed that she defied rules on mask-wearing and social-distancing by embracing colleagues upon her nomination earlier this month.

Baerbock has also been presented as a “model student” of Hungarian billionaire George Soros – a hate figure for the European far-right and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists – in a mocked-up social media graphic shared among others by a far-right MP.

More serious online attacks include a purported photo of Baerbock which in fact shows a similar-looking naked model.

The Greens’ campaign manager Michael Kellner said that the attempts to discredit Baerbock had “taken on a new dimension”, that “women are targeted more heavily by online attacks than men, and that is also true of our candidate”.

Greens co-leader Annalena Baerbock earlier this month. Photo: DPA

Other false claims about the party include reports of a proposed ban on barbecues, as well as plans to disarm the police and enforce the teaching of the Quran in schools.

While such reports are patently absurd, they are potentially damaging to Baerbock and her party as they bid to spring a surprise victory in September.

“She has a very real chance, but the coming weeks are going to be very important because Baerbock’s public image is still taking shape,” Thorsten Faas, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University told AFP.

In a bid to fight back against the flood of false information, the party has launched a new “online fire service” to report fake news stories.

READ ALSO: Greens become ‘most popular political party’ in Germany

Russian disinformation

Yet stemming the tide is no easy job, with many of those who peddle disinformation now using private messaging services such as WhatsApp and Telegram rather than public platforms such as Facebook.

The pandemic and ongoing restrictions on public life will also make it harder for the campaign to push through their own narratives at public events.

Miro Dittrich of Germany’s Amadeu-Antonio anti-racism foundation claims that lockdown has “played a role” in the spread of fake news.

“People are isolated from their social environment and are spending a lot more time online,” he said.

Another factor is Russia, which has made Germany a primary target of its efforts to spread disinformation in Europe.

According to the European anti-disinformation platform EUvsDisinfo, Germany has been the target of 700 Russian disinformation cases since 2015, compared to 300 aimed at France and 170 at Italy.

As an outspoken critic of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, Baerbock may well become a target of such attacks during the election campaign.

By Mathieu FOULKES