France's National Front ousts Jean-Marie Le Pen over anti-Semitism remarks
Marine Le Pen's National Front party stopped hosting a video blog produced by her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen today after a controversial quip he made about a Jewish singer revived accusations of anti-Semitism.
Le Pen rebuked her father at the weekend for what she called a 'political mistake' after he used a term linked to the French word for 'oven' when talking about the singer - a remark that critics and Jewish groups said was an implied reference to the death camps of the Holocaust.
While Marine Le Pen said her father's comment had been misinterpreted, two days later his blog and all links leading to it had been removed from the National Front's official web site.
The decision to take it down "was taken in the interest of legal protection, to protect the [web site's] director of publication," Wallerand de Saint-Juste, a lawyer for the party, said. He added that Jean-Marie Le Pen's blog would be hosted elsewhere on the Internet, without specifying where.
Le Pen, who retains a title as "honorary president" of the party, responded to criticism including from his own party by telling RMC radio that his critics were guilty of "group think".
The 45-year-old Marine Le Pen, who has sought to cleanse the party of a reputation for racism, led it to win more votes than any other French party during European elections last month after a campaign that focused on criticism of Brussels.
With other anti-European parties also scoring highly in the vote, Le Pen hopes to form a political group with like-minded leaders, which would give them access to funding for staff and more influence to set the agenda in the EU assembly.
So far Le Pen and her allies have enough deputies to form a group but they only represent parties from five nations. Seven are needed to constitute a group.
The controversy over her father's quip could scare off other potential members of the group, such as Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders.
However Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, said he was still in talks to joint he National Front's group in the EU parliament.
"The interpretation was made clear that it wasn't meant like that," he told Austria's ORF radio. "There are negotiations and if things go well we'll have seven to nine parties."
French and European Jewish groups denounced as anti-Semitic a video posted on the FN website in which Jean-Marie Le Pen lashed out at several celebrities 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".