On Monday, an anonymous — now deleted — Twitter account claimed the mayoral office had removed the statue permanently.
Several politicians and journalists retweeted and reacted to the news, including lawmakers from President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM).
“I don’t understand the political message we want to get across by removing a statue of Voltaire,” Irene Tolleret, an LREM MEP, said.
But their anger was misguided, the mayoral office said.
“It’s a fake controversy for us,” the Paris city hall official said. “We don’t own this work of art, so it’s up to the ministry of culture to decide whether it can be reinstalled or not [after cleaning up].”
Most of the outrage came from the far right, including several key figures such as writer and activist Renaud Camus and politician Florian Philippot who said this was “weakness” and a “crime against intelligence and against France.”
Macron has come out against toppling statues, and in his Bastille Day speech said fighting racism should not lead to a “hateful” re-writing of history.
“The Republic will not erase any trace or name from its history. It will forget none of its artworks, it won’t take down statues,” he said.
Protesters in the French overseas territory of Martinique toppled two statues of the 19th-century abolitionist Victor Schoelcher earlier this year, condemning him for authoring a decree that compensated slave owners for their losses.