Galliano Can’t Recall Anti-Semitic Rant, to Blame Addiction

Designer John Galliano
Designer John Galliano. Photographer: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

John Galliano, the designer fired by Christian Dior SA over a video recording of his saying “I love Hitler,” will tell a Paris court he doesn’t remember two other incidents in which he is accused of anti-Semitic and racist attacks on bar patrons, and deny having such prejudices.

Galliano “was sick, very sick with addictions to alcohol and drugs” for which he is receiving treatment, his lawyer, Aurelien Hamelle, said in a telephone interview last week. “This is not the trial of a racist man or an anti-Semitic man, it is the trial of a sick man who said things he doesn’t believe -- that he doesn’t even remember.”

Galliano’s accusers at a trial today claim he uttered the slurs at a cafe in Paris’s fashionable third arrondissement. Within days of that Feb. 24 incident, an undated video of a slurring Galliano praising Adolf Hitler, and saying “people like you would be dead,” was posted on the website of the U.K. tabloid The Sun.

The designer was fired by the 65-year-old Paris fashion house a day after the video’s release. Dior, which also owns Galliano’s namesake label, dismissed him three days before he was to host the fashion house’s women’s ready-to-wear show in Paris and hasn’t replaced him. Sidney Toledano, Dior’s chief executive officer, spoke at the show, saying that while Galliano is “brilliant,” his comments were “intolerable because of our collective duty to never forget the Holocaust and its victims.”

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, where CEO Bernard Arnault controls Dior, declined to comment, company spokesman Olivier Labesse said. Dior spokesman Olivier Bialobos also declined to comment.

In Vino, Veritas

Galliano’s addictions can’t excuse his statements, said Eric Zerbib, a lawyer for LICRA, an international organization opposed to racism and anti-semitism that is one of three advocacy groups supporting the prosecution.

“It doesn’t explain and it doesn’t excuse anything,” said Zerbib. “In vino, veritas. In wine, the truth. Wine has a liberating effect which allows one to know an individual’s real personality, and given that the deeds were repeated several times, thus we know John Galliano’s personality.”

Galliano was arrested after Geraldine Bloch and Philippe Virgitti said he insulted them in February. A third victim, Fathia Oumeddour, reported a similar episode in October after Bloch and Virgitti spoke out. Their complaints are the subject of today’s trial.

The 50-year-old, Gibraltar-born designer, who under sentencing rules for hate speech faces a maximum 22,500-euro ($32,300) fine and six months in prison if found guilty, will testify, Hamelle said. Similar cases “most often” result in fines rather than jail time, he said.

‘Not at All Lucid’

The trial will come down to whose testimony the judges believe, as other witnesses from the café “don’t confirm exactly, or not at all, what the victims say,” Hamelle said.

“We don’t have a video for these events,” Hamelle said. Galliano “doesn’t remember what he said, or didn’t say, because he wasn’t at all lucid.”

Galliano dropped the defamation claims he filed against Bloch and Virgitti in February. He issued a statement the day after his firing saying “anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society.”

“I have fought my entire life against prejudice, intolerance and discrimination, having been subjected to it myself,” he said.

The video in which he spoke of Hitler shocked Galliano himself, Hamelle said.

“He saw the video in which he made statements, which he is the first to say are unacceptable, he regrets it, he is sorry that he caused such distress,” Hamelle said.

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