Sarkozy to Obama: Netanyahu Is a 'Liar'

An open mic causes red faces in three countries.

ByABC News
November 8, 2011, 9:02 AM

Nov. 8, 2011— -- French President Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a liar in a conversation with President Obama caught on an open mic at last week's G-20 summit.

"I can't look at him [Netanyahu] anymore, he's a liar," Sarkozy told Obama, the French media website Arret Sur Images reported.

"You've had enough of him, but I have to deal with him every day," Obama is said to have responded.

The private conversation happened last Thursday in the southern French city of Cannes, heard by half a dozen journalists whose headphones were still receiving audio from the presidents' wireless microphones.

The handful of reporters including one from the Reuters news agency confirmed the quotes.

"By the time the team from the Elysee [presidential palace] realized, it must have been three minutes," one of the journalists told Arret Sur Images.

Reporters who overheard the remarks decided not to report them because they were intended to be private, but the news leaked out on the Internet nonetheless.

"We didn't record anything and using them [the comments] would admit that we cheated," an anonymous reporter told the website.

It also quoted another member of the media saying, "there were discussions among the journalists there who decided not to do anything. It's a sensitive subject: it's annoying to not publish this information, but at the same time we have agreed to precise ethical rules and printing these sentences would mean violating them."

Netanyahu's office declined ABC News' request for comment and the White House has yet to respond.

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., this morning said that he would "fire some aides" if he were caught in an such an open microphone moment.

"Obviously I would probably fire some aides that allowed that to happen if I were in their place," McCain said during an interview on Fox News Channel this morning. "It really is indicative of the attitude and policies that this administration has towards Israel."

McCain said that he is a "great admirer" of Netanyahu and that comments like these from the two leaders towards the prime minister are "not helpful" to the situation that Israel is in.

GOP presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann called on President Obama to apologize for comments critical of Netanyahu.

"Today we learned in word what we have already seen from President Obama through his actions, his lack of commitment to the nation of Israel. When the president complains about his relationship derisively with the prime minister as 'Having to deal with him every day,' it is apparent that he is not committed to our ally Israel," Bachmann said following a fundraiser for the South Carolina GOP in Columbia, S.C., on Tuesday.

"I call on the president to immediately apologize to Prime Minister Netanyahu and he should demonstrate leadership and demand that the French president do the same," she said in a statement.

Sarkozy and Obama were discussing the recent admission of Palestine to UNESCO, part of its bid to get recognition at the United Nations. The U.S. opposes the Palestinian efforts and Obama was reportedly chiding Sarkozy for not telling him France would vote in favor of Palestine in the UNESCO vote. The U.S. later withdrew its funding for the cultural body which amounts to $70 million annually.

The conversation then turned to Netanyahu, which is when Sarkozy is said to have called him a liar.

At least publicly, the three countries are united on the issue of the day: crippling sanctions for Iran when the International Atomic Energy Agency releases its latest report this week.

Though Iran was the top story in the Israeli media on Tuesday, the main newspapers also ran the Arret Sur Images report.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a spokesman for the opposition party Kadima -- whose last campaign slogan was "Bibi [Netanyahu's nickname], I don't believe him" -- declined to comment, saying, "What Sarkozy said is more than enough."

ABC News' Sunlen Miller and Russell Goldman contributed to this report.