Do you know Marine Le Pen well?
The far-right French presidential candidate, who is on the verge of winning power, has been active in frontline politics since taking over as leader of her father’s party in 2010.
But over the years, spanning three presidential bids and several local campaigns, it’s easy to lose sight of Le Pen’s positions and statements, especially given the lengths she has gone to to soften her image.
Not only did she change the name of her party from the National Front to the National Rally, but Le Pen also reversed herself on such important issues as France’s retention in the eurozone and whether or not she is an admirer of Russian President Vladimir. Putin.
To jog your memory as we approach the final round of the April 24 election, when Le Pen faces President Emmanuel Macron for the second time, here is a list of Le Pen’s top 10 controversial statements on everything from France’s role in the WWII roundup of Jews in Islamic headscarves and what it would do with immigrants who seek to impose “ways of life that are not ours” on us.
1. “France not responsible for the Vél’ d’Hiv”
Commenting during the 2017 presidential election on the largest deportation of Jews from France to Germany during World War II, Le Pen said: “If there are people responsible, it is those who were in power in the era, it is not France”. She added that she wanted the children of France “to be proud to be French again”.
In July 1942, 13,000 Jews were arrested and detained in Paris Winter Velodrome – or Vel d’Hiv — and transported to their deaths at Auschwitz in what became the biggest roundup of Jews from the Nazi-aligned Vichy regime in France. Thousands of police and civilians took part in their capture.
2. “France is a university for jihadists”
Also in 2017, during a televised debate with his first-round presidential rivals, Le Pen told former Prime Minister François Fillon: “The government policy you led was absolute nonsense. He brought the Islamists to power in Libya, he weakened the integrity of the region — now we have radical Islamism on our soil. France is a university for jihadists.
3. “Parity is contrary to [our Republic’s] Meritocracy”
Le Pen maintains that she is a strong advocate for women’s rights. “I’m a feminist,” she told French television in March last year, though carefully adding that she “expresses no hostility towards men.”
But during her first presidential campaign in 2012, Le Pen was caught saying that “parity is contrary to [our Republic’s] Meritocracy “. She then defended the request, arguing that she was against affirmative action because “reserving a share for women has perverse effects” and it makes women themselves appear as “the quota”.
4. “There have been prayers in public spaces…it’s an occupation”
At a party rally in 2010, Le Pen was condemned after comparing Muslim street prayers in France to the Nazi occupation during World War II.
“Fifteen years ago, we had the veil, there were more and more veils. Then there was the burqa, there were more and more burqas. And then there were prayers in the streets… now there are 10 or 15 places where a certain number of people come regularly and take up all the space,” she said.
“For those who like to talk a lot about the Second World War, if it is a question of talking about occupation… it is an occupation of the territory,” she added to thunderous applause.
5. “The policies I represent are the policies represented by Mr. Trump [and] Mr Putin”
In a 2017 interview with the BBC, Le Pen aimed to the austerity policy and immigration policies of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel towards Syrian refugees, stating: “She [Merkel] let in 1.5 million migrants… It imposes austerity on all the nations of Europe. And, by the way, it is increasingly isolated, because the politicians I represent are the politicians represented by Mr. [Donald] Trump, they are represented by Mr. [Vladimir] Putin…the British people have just made it clear that they want to go in this direction.
6. “Anti-Semitism is due to the establishment of Islamism in our country”
At the height of talk of the rise of the Islamic State in 2014, Le Pen tweeted: “Our Jewish compatriots know it, anti-Semitism is due to the implantation of Islamism in our country.”
The comment is controversial, and not just because of France’s long and complex history with anti-Semitism – his party also had a checkered past with anti-Jewish sentiment under his father Jean-Marie.
7. “Did you win your car in the lottery?”
While campaigning in the northern town of Hénin-Beaumont in 2012, a North African man in a passing car saw Le Pen and shouted: “Vive Mélenchon!” – in reference to his far-left rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
“Did you win your car in the lottery? Or by work? Le Pen retorted. “Every time the men shout ‘Vive Mélenchon’, they are North Africans – every time,” she later explained.
8. “The veil is not an ordinary piece of fabric, it is a marker of radicality”
In 2019, Julien Odoul, representative at the regional assembly of the Le Pen party, required that a Muslim woman accompanying children to the assembly building of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté removes her veil. The comments caused a firestorm, with President Emmanuel Macron set to intervene later and urge people not to “stigmatise” Muslims.
But Le Pen doubled down and defended Odoul on Europe 1 radio, saying “the veil is not a cap or a headband – it has been a demand, for decades, of the Muslim Brotherhood, to veil women”.
9. “I hope we don’t find that you have an offshore bank account in the Bahamas”
During the “great debate” of the 2017 presidential election, the then National Front leader raised rumors that her rival Macron had an offshore bank account. The allegations, which began with fake documents circulating on Twitter during the final days of the campaign, were quickly denied by several French media outlets. “It’s defamation,” Macron replied.
Le Pen’s perceived poor performance in the debate hurt his polls, and Macron easily won the second round.
ten. “Delinquents from France, in prison. Foreigners, in airplanes”
As she launched her 2022 presidential campaign in the French Riviera resort town of Fréjus last September, Le Pen told supporters: “We are going to eradicate…all those, Islamists or not, who want to impose us rules and ways of life that are not ours. Delinquents will be put out of harm’s way…delinquents from France, in prison. Foreigners on planes.