Jeb Bush jokes: 'I did a disservice to the French'

Can Jeb Bush 'fix it'?
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Story highlights

  • Jeb Bush insulted the French work week when he compared it to how often Congress
  • Bush followed up Tuesday that he didn't mean to insult the French people by comparing them to Congress

(CNN)France has long been a punching bag for U.S. conservatives, but Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush has jokingly apologized for one jab he made that he says in retrospect went too far.

Bush's original comment came last week when he criticized rival Marco Rubio in a Republican debate over his poor voting record.
"The Senate, what is it like, a French work week?" Bush said. "You get, like, three days where you have to show up?"
    Speaking to reporters on his campaign bus on Tuesday, the former Florida governor said, "I made the mistake of saying that the Congress operates on a French work week," according to Time magazine.
    "I really did a disservice to the French," Bush continued with a chuckle, adding shortly thereafter. "I now know that the average French work week is actually greater than the German work week."
    "So, my God, I totally insulted an entire country -- our first ally -- that helped us become free as a nation! And I apologize. That did a huge disservice to France. It didn't really get to the magnitude of the problem: Three-day work week."
    CNN has reached to the Bush campaign for additional comment.
    French media pounced on the debate statement shortly after it came out, poking holes in the description and calling it a false stereotype.
    The Bush campaign dismissed these rebuttals.
    "Not too concerned about attacks from the French media," Bush communications director Tim Miller told CNNMoney. "Jeb's working far more than 40 hours a week!"
    "French" is a familiar smear in conservative circles. In the 2004 presidential election, Republicans repeatedly taunted John Kerry for being too French-like. And the GOP famously led efforts to change French fries to freedom fries in Capitol Hill cafeterias.