Why A House Representative Tried To Rename French Fries

In February 2019, major newspapers around the country ran an obituary announcing the death of Walter B Jones Jr., a North Carolina Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2019. He was a politician who got along with colleagues and would not always vote along party lines, but Jones Jr. would not just be remembered for that. Instead, he has also gone down in history as one of the men who sought to rename one of America's favorite sides because of the Iraq War, which took place between 2003 to 2011.

Jones Jr.'s move to turn French fries into "Freedom Fries" was first proposed in early 2003, when France first said it would not support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. At the time, President Jacques Chirac had felt not enough time had been given for diplomacy to work. France was not alone in its opposition to the war; Germany was against it too.

But France was the one that caught America's ire. And as a supporter of the military action, Jones Jr. took inspiration from the owner of a North Carolina diner who removed the word "French" not just from his fries but from his toast, too. The owner, Neal Rowland, had told Fox News, "Since the French are backing down, French fries and French everything needs to be banned."

The move to rename French fries to Freedom fries didn't last

Jones Jr. decided to reach out to fellow congressman Robert W. Ney of Ohio who was in charge of the committee that managed the restaurants in Congress to propose a similar name change. Both men subsequently made headlines for the move, which they announced with a plaque that read: "***Update*** Now Serving.... In All House Office Buildings... 'FREEDOM FRIES.'"

The name change didn't get bipartisan support — Democrat lawmaker Jose Serrano called the gesture "petty grandstanding," per BBC, and went on to ask: "Should we ban French wine, Belgian waffles or Russian dressing? If Mexico votes no, should Mexican restaurants also be banned?" The move even triggered a reaction from the late Anthony Bourdain, who filmed the premiere of his show "No Reservations" in Paris, saying "I wanted to explore the Paris of locals. You know, show my countrymen why the French don't suck," per The Washington Post.

But "Freedom fries" wouldn't last. Three years later, in 2006, they became French fries once again, and in the face of evidence that the Iraq War may have been fought under false pretenses, Jones Jr. went from being one of the Iraq war's greatest advocates to becoming one of its most vocal critics.