National Front President Marine Le Pen Calls Alleged Anti-Semitic Comments a ‘Political Error’
Alleged anti-Semitic comments made by the founder of France’s National Front caused an outcry in France on Sunday, with even party President Marine Le Pen calling the comments a “political error.”
In a video posted on the party’s website but later removed, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Ms. Le Pen’s father, lashed out at critics of the National Front, including French Jewish singer Patrick Bruel, using word play that was widely interpreted as anti-Semitic.
In the video, Mr. Le Pen, when reminded by his interviewer that Mr. Bruel was one of the party’s critics, replied laughingly: “We’ll do an oven load next time.”
The video was no longer available on the website Sunday, but was aired by French national TV on evening-news broadcasts.
Several groups, including French antiracist group SOS Racisme and Jewish associations, denounced Mr. Le Pen’s comments as anti-Semitic, saying they allude to crematoria used by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, called on the European Union to strip Mr. Le Pen, who is a member of the European Parliament, of his parliamentary immunity.
“Le Pen has unmasked the true face of the far-right of Europe days after their electoral successes in the European Parliament,” Mr. Kantor said in a statement. “While some have tried to whitewash and mainstream these parties, Le Pen’s comments demonstrate that they still stand on foundations of hatred, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.”
Mr. Le Pen later responded to the outrage. In a statement posted on the National Front website, he said the French word “fournée,” which he used, had no anti-Semitic connotation.
But several high-ranking National Front party members distanced themselves from the remarks of Mr. Le Pen, who is still honorary president of the party.
Ms. Le Pen called her father’s comments “a political error,” according to French daily Le Figaro.
“I am convinced that the meaning that was given to his remarks stem from a wrong interpretation,” Ms. Le Pen was quoted as saying by the paper. “But given Jean-Marie Le Pen’s very deep experience, to not have anticipated how this formulation may be interpreted is a political error, which has consequences for the National Front.”
The party’s vice president, Louis Aliot told another French newspaper that to use such a word in reference to Mr. Bruel was “politically stupid and deplorable.”
No one at National Front was immediately available to comment.
Led by Ms. Le Pen since 2011, the National Front scored a strong victory in the European Parliament elections in France in May as voters delivered a rebuke to mainstream parties that many blame for leaving the country’s economy in the doldrums.