French far right accuses minister of defamation

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Christine Taubira

PARIS (AP) — France’s far-right party said Sunday that it would file a complaint against the justice minister, who called the party’s ideas “murderous” after one of its members compared her to a monkey.

On French television last week, a National Front candidate in a municipal election acknowledged she had posted a montage on Facebook that juxtaposed a photo of a baby monkey with one of Justice Minister Christine Taubira, who is Black. The caption implied the photo of the monkey was a baby picture of the minister.

Anne-Sophie Leclere said she didn’t think the photos were racist and were only meant to imply Taubira is not fit for office. The National Front has since suspended Leclere’s candidacy.

Taubira responded Saturday that the “deadly and murderous thinking” of the National Front party should come as no surprise, accusing them of holding racist views, even if they are not always so public.

That prompted the party to issue a statement, saying it would bring Taubira to justice. Wallerand de Saint-Just, a lawyer for the party, said it would file a complaint for defamation and insults.

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French far-right party leader Marine Le Pen, speaks to the media in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The move appears to make good on the promise of Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, to pursue in court anyone who characterizes the party as part of the “extreme right.” She has complained such characterizations are smear tactics, meant to paint the party as a fringe movement that is not representative of French people.

It’s all part of Le Pen’s efforts to soften the image of the National Front, stigmatized as racist and anti-Semitic during her father’s tenure. And the party does seem to be gaining strength: Last week, a National Front candidate won a local by-election, and Le Pen herself drew 17.9 percent of the vote in the first round of last year’s presidential election.

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