The head of the far-right French party the National Front, Marine Le Pen, has downplayed remarks by her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who told an interviewer that a Jewish singer should be sent to the "oven". Footage of the comments was published on the party's website over the weekend.
During the interview, Le Pen lashed out at various celebrities, including Madonna, who had criticized the party's achievements in the EU parliamentary elections last month. When the interviewer told Le Pen that one of those critics had been French Jewish singer Patrick Bruel, he replied: "I am not surprised. Next time we should arrange another 'shipment' to the oven".
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Marine Le Pen told French daily newspaper "Le Figaro" on Sunday that her father's comments had been "maliciously misinterpreted."
At the same time, she stressed that her father didn't foresee how his remarks would be construed, which was "a political error for which the National Front is paying the price".
Marine Le Pen told the newspaper that if the affair did have any positive outcome, it was that "it allows me to repeat and emphasize that the National Front condemns any form of anti-Semitism".
The anti-Semitic outburst drew condemnation from other senior members of the far-right party, with Vice President Louis Aliot saying that using such a phrase in reference to Mr. Bruel was "politically stupid and disgraceful".
'Back to his old tricks'
Writing on Twitter, Bruel said in response that, "Jean-Marie Le Pen is back to his old tricks and reminded us of his true colors and the real face of the National Front". At the same time, Jewish organizations in France and in Europe accused Le Pen of anti-Semitism, while a French Jewish student organization threatened to sue both Le Pens.
The European Jewish Congress also called on the European Parliament to revoke Le Pen's immunity so that he could be prosecuted for incitement. EJC President Moshe Kantor said that "Le Pen has revealed the true face of Europe's far-right just days after their electoral successes in the European Parliament".
"While some have tried to make these parties look mainstream and whiten their true colors, Le Pen's comments demonstrate that they are still based on hatred, anti-Semitism and xenophobia." Kantor added.
Le Pen is known for his word play and subtle language to insinuate anti-Semitic opinions without expressing them bluntly. However, he was convicted of racial incitement in 1996 after saying that the gas chambers used to murder Jews in the Holocaust were merely a 'minor detail in the history of World War II".
Le Pen senior headed the National Front until he was replaced by his daughter in 2011. Since then, the party has become more acceptable among voters, mainly due to the fact that Marine Le Pen has diverted the emphasis from the party's strict positions.