Lebanon News

Backlash after Atallah insults Yacoubian on live television

Minister Ghassan Atallah attends a Cabinet session in Beirut, Oct. 16, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Minister for the Displaced Ghassan Atallah said Wednesday that he “regrets” that MP Paula Yacoubian took his words out of context after a heated argument erupted between the two on live television after he accused her of doing “unethical” things to get to her post.

“I regret that my words to [MP] Yacoubian were interpreted outside of their context and were seen as an attack on women and honor, especially [as] ... they were meant in a political context,” Atallah tweeted.

In a show Tuesday night on local TV channel Al-Jadeed, Atallah, who had phoned in to discuss the events of a visit to Al-Jisr Beach Club hall in Damour earlier in the day, suddenly addressed Yacoubian, saying that she had “got to the place she is [currently] in using unethical ways.”

“What? I got [to the place I am in] using unethical ways? Shame on you,” Yacoubian interrupted.

Most of what Atallah said was not clear, as he and Yacoubian were speaking simultaneously.

“Everyone knows what you did and how you acted ... People remember really well what you did,” Atallah continued.

Yacoubian hit back, saying that the Free Patriotic Movement, of which Atallah is a member, was “without honor, because honor is not between the legs, it is in the head - something that you don’t have.”

Before the quarrel, Atallah said that his visit to Al-Jisr Beach was to “support and thank” volunteers who had brought food to those taking refuge there after a series of wildfires burned through multiple towns Tuesday.

Activist Cynthia Sleiman, who was a guest on the show, said that Atallah’s bodyguards pulled their guns on people present at the venue when they called for the minister to leave.

In videos circulating on social media, people are seen shouting “All of them” and “Out,” as Atallah and his bodyguards retreated toward the door. The minister’s guards then clashed with the crowd, two of the guards reached for their guns and one was seen pushing a man to the floor.

“The video shows how we are moving backward and they are attacking us. Of course my guards will secure my exit, [if people] are attacking a minister who came to say thank you,” Atallah said.

By Wednesday morning, the hashtag #Paula_Yacoubian became the top trending topic on Twitter in Lebanon, with people commending Yacoubian for her response to Atallah, while others criticized her. A hashtag for #Ghassan_Atallah came second.

“MP @PaulaYacoubian ending Ghassan Atallah’s career. Get it girl. You are speaking on behalf of all of us Lebanese women. There’s no room for their bigotry here anymore,” Twitter user Rita Khayat said.

“#Paula_Yacoubian the symbol of lying and hypocrisy,” Dani Akkari wrote.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 17, 2019, on page 2.




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