03/05/2017 14:32 BST | Updated 03/05/2017 15:40 BST

Marine Le Pen Stylist Magazine Cover Shocks Social Media

It was a 'visual gag', magazine insists.

Stylist Magazine
The Stylist magazine cover featuring Marine Le Pen

Stylist magazine has responded to claims it was “normalising fascism” with its cover featuring Marine Le Pen.

The free women’s weekly magazine has profiled Le Pen’s fight to become French president, after she made it to the second round of voting in the election which takes place on Sunday. 

Its article emphasises Le Pen’s efforts to detoxify the Far Right, anti-immigration Front National, which has been defined by hostility to immigration and accused of Islamophobia.

Le Pen’s steps to detoxify the party include expelling her own father for saying the Holocaust was merely “a detail of history”.

But she has been criticised for insensitive comments about the Holocaust, having said France was not responsible for the rounding up of Jews to be sent to concentration camps during the Nazi occupation.

Charles Platiau / Reuters
Le Pen faces Emmanuel Macron in the second round of voting in France's presidential election on Sunday

Stylist’s article mentions her growing popularity, including among younger women.

But the front page shocked many, with its picture of Le Pen featuring a “warning” sticker on her mouth which says it contains “views and policies that some liberal modern women will find disturbing”.

It gives no clue about the context of that content.

After a harrowing reaction on social media, the magazine said the cover was meant to be a “visual gag” to label “her rhetoric (and sheer existence) a very dangerous thing”.

One person, who said the magazine was “doing their bit to help rehabilitate a Nazi-sympathising, virulently racist, hardcore fascist”, was typical of the reaction the magazine faced.

French journalist Marie Le Conte mocked its “edgy framing of fascism”.

Author Musa Okwonga called it “normalisation of racism”.

While others labelled it an “absolute disgrace” that was “misjudged, condescending and dismissive”.

Laurie Winkless, a scientist and author, defended the magazine featuring Le Pen but said “the language seems way too... normalising”.

Stylist’s statement said the magazine “vehemently does not support her or her views, and any misinterpretation of our stance on Marine Le Pen is regrettable and unintended”.

The statement added: “Our coverage was not intended to trivialise or normalise Marine Le Pen or her rhetoric - the opposite in fact; we wanted to question how someone with such repulsive views could have made such traction with the French electorate.

“Which she, alarmingly, has. Her extreme views have been normalised to the extent that people are voting for her.”

Author Dan Hancox said Stylist’s response missed the point, saying the cover had styled Le Pen as “sexy dangerous”.

Latest polls put the centrist Emmanuel Macron as favourite to win the runoff against Le Pen.