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French Far Right's Marine Le Pen Rebukes Dad in Anti-Semitism Row

Image: Marine Le Pen listens to her father Jean-Marie Le Pen
Marine Le Pen listens to her father, France's far-right Front national party's president and presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, as he delivers a speech on March 17, 2007.MARTIN BUREAU / AFP - Getty Images, file

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PARIS - Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front (FN), rebuked her father and former party head on Sunday for remarks reviving long-standing allegations of anti-Semitism soon after a major poll victory.

Marine Le Pen, who took over the anti-immigrant and anti-EU party from Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011, said a controversial quip he made about a French Jewish singer that included an implied reference to concentration camp ovens had been misinterpreted.

Image: Marine Le Pen listens to her father Jean-Marie Le Pen
Marine Le Pen listens to her father, France's far-right Front national party's president and presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, as he delivers a speech on March 17, 2007.MARTIN BUREAU / AFP - Getty Images, file

But for an experienced politician like her father, she said, "not to have foreseen how this phrase would be interpreted is a political mistake the National Front is (now) paying for."

Marine Le Pen, who has made the FN more acceptable to voters by playing down some hardline traditions, led the party last month to first place in French voting for the European Parliament, the first time it has ever won a nationwide poll.

French and European Jewish groups denounced her father's comments as anti-Semitic. Another prominent leader of the FN, speaking out before Marine Le Pen, said his attack was "politically stupid and deplorable."

The controversy began on Friday with a video posted on the FN website in which Jean-Marie Le Pen lashed out at several celebrities - including U.S. singer Madonna, French comedian Guy Bedos and tennis star Yannick Noah - for expressing alarm that the party had swept 25 percent of the European Parliament vote.

Reminded by his interviewer that Jewish singer Patrick Bruel was among the critics, Le Pen chuckled and said: "That doesn't surprise me. Listen, we'll do up a batch next time."

Le Pen has often used subtle word play to hint at anti-Semitic views without clearly saying them. His word for "batch" - fournee - is a baking term that originally meant "ovenful".

He was convicted of inciting racial hatred in 1996 for saying the gas chambers used to kill Jews in the Holocaust were "merely a detail in the history of the Second World War."

Bruel responded to his video with a tweet saying: "J.M. Le Pen reoffends ... Did he need to remind us of his true face and that of the FN?"

Marine Le Pen told Le Figaro daily, in comments distributed before publication, that the assumption that her father's comments were anti-Semitic was a "malicious interpretation" but that the incident "allows me to reiterate that the National Front most firmly condemns every form of anti-Semitism."

- Reuters

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