Jean-Marie Le Pen has been accused of spreading “anti-Semitic filth” by suggesting that a popular Jewish singer should be placed in an oven. Sparking outrage in France over the weekend, the founder of the country’s far-right National Front party said there would be a “batch in the oven” of people like singer Patrick Bruel who criticise the resurgent party.
Reported by The Telegraph, Mr Le Pen's daughter, Marine Le Pen, the current leader of the National Front, appeared to distance herself from her father’s remarks, describing them to Le Figaro newspaper as a "political mistake". She said that the meaning of his comments came from a "malicious interpretation", but added, “Not to have foreseen how this phrase would be interpreted is a political mistake the National Front is suffering the consequences”.
Ms Le Pen said that the incident did "remind people that the Front National condemns any form of anti-semitism in the strongest terms”. The party’s vice president Louis Aliot, who is also Marine Le Pen’s partner, referred to the outburst as a “bad phrase", adding that it was “politically stupid and disappointing." Others in the party called for Mr Le Pen’s retirement.
However, Mr Le Pen remained defiant on Monday, suggesting that the "political fault" was with the new direction of the party he founded, despite his daughter leading the National Front to a huge win in the recent European elections, taking more than 25% of the national vote, a victory that included the re-election of Mr Le Pen as an MEP. He also went on radio and television, insisting that his remarks were not a reference to the millions of Jews that died as a result of Nazi atrocities.
According to The Telegraph, he said: “It’s crazy to imagine that this word could have been used in relation to the events of the war," before taking a swipe at his own party, saying that "people in my camp who interpret it that way, they’re imbeciles”.
In an online video posted on the National Front website, Mr Le Pen decried those who had been critical of the National Front, before making the “batch in the oven” remark. The video was hastily removed from the site soon afterwards. Bruel tweeted on Monday that Mr Le Pen was "reminding us of his true face".
On Monday, a spokesperson for SOS racism in Paris called Mr Le Pen’s comments "the worst king of anti-Semitic filth", while the country’s Movement Against Racism condemned the 85-year-old politician as "an authentic anti-Semite".