French far-right figure Jean-Marie Le Pen has landed himself in hot water over anti-Semitic remarks once again, this time with his daughter, Marine. The spat coincides with her attempts to gain more power in EU politics.
A video posted on the website of French far-right party, the National Front (FN), sparked a public dispute among its leaders on Monday, pitting its long-time leader and now honorary head, Jean-Marie Le Pen against his daughter and the current leader, Marine Le Pen.
In the clip, the 85-year-old party icon resorts to an anti-Semitic jibe. When asked about Jewish critics of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, responds there would be a "batch in the oven" of similar objectors the next time.
The video, which appeared on Friday, was removed by Sunday. However, French television outlets carried the clip, prompting public outcry despite Le Pen's denial that the phrase was an anti-Semitic play on words.
The controversy grew, however, when Le Pen's daughter criticized the remarks, telling the French daily Le Figaro on Monday, that her father had made a "political mistake that will cost the National Front."
The party's vice president, Louis Aliot, also criticized the 85-year-old honorary party head.
"[It was] a bad phrase. It is politically stupid and dismaying," Aliot told the weekly Le Parisien Dimanche newspaper.
Incitement charge sought by Jewish Congress
The president European Jewish Congress has demanded the European parliament to lift Le Pen's immunity so that he may be charged with incitement.
Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the far-right party in 1972 and his since gained notoriety for making a number of racist and anti-Semitic remarks. He once said the Nazi gas chambers – responsible for the death of millions of Jews and other political dissenters under the Nazi regime – was a "detail" of history.
EU politics at stake
Marine Le Pen, for her part, has maintained a xenophobic line in her politics, promoting a negative view of immigration, particularly from northern Africa, on the French culture and economy. However, she has also attempted to slowly distance the far-right wing group away from her father's reputation in a bid to hook in mainstream voters who continue to suffer under high unemployment and a stagnating economy.
"The stands taken by Aliot and Marine Le Pen to distance themselves in a fairly clear manner from Jean-Marie…[are] an effort to salvage things in the European Parliament," French far-right expert Joel Gombin told news agency AFP.
However, according to Gombin, the public spat could benefit Marine as it "[feeds into] the media narrative of ‘de-demonization' [of the National Front]."
France's National Front garnered 25 percent of the vote in May's EU elections. Marine Le Pen is currently trying to form a far-right group of parties in parliament that could boost anti-establishment influence in the EU, maintaining that overreach by Brussels is harming the bloc's 28 nations.
She has thus far secured the backing of representatives from four other right-wing parties in Europe - Geert Wilder's Dutch PVV, Austria's FPÖ, the Northern League from Italy and Belgium's Flemish Interest – but must secure a span of members from seven EU nations to be recognized as a parliamentary caucus.
kms/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)