The head of the far-right National Front party in France has publicly criticized her father, the former head of the party, over a comment some have interpreted as suggesting that a well-known Jewish singer be baked in an oven.
Party leader Marine Le Pen rebuked her father Jean-Marie Le Pen over his comment, though the elder Le Pen said his words had been misinterpreted.
The National Front on Friday posted a video showing Jean-Marie Le Pen criticizing celebrities including Madonna and tennis star Yannick Noah for expressing their concern the anti-immigration and Eurosceptic party had won 25 percent of the European Parliament vote in France last month.
According to Reuters, the interviewer then reminded Le Pen that the Jewish singer Patrick Bruel had also criticized the party’s success, to which Le Pen chuckled and said, “That doesn’t surprise me. Listen, we’ll do up a batch next time.”
The word that evoked controversy was translated to English in slightly different ways by different publications. Reuters translated the French word – fournee – as “’batch’ … a baking term that originally meant ‘ovenful.’”
Jewish groups were upset with his comment. The French Jewish students’ union called it an “openly anti-Semitic declaration.”
European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said the remark “unmasked the true face of the far-right of Europe days after their electoral successes.”
“While some have tried to whitewash and mainstream these parties, Le Pen’s comments demonstrate that they still stand on foundations of hatred, anti-Semitism and xenophobia,” Kantor added.
Mr. Le Pen in later interviews denied his comment was anti-Semitic or that it referred to ovens used in Nazi concentration camps to kill Jews during the Second World War.
“It’s crazy to imagine that this word could have been used in relation to the events of the war,” he said. “If there are people in my camp who interpret it that way, they’re imbeciles.”
The National Front swiftly took down the video from its website on Sunday.
Marine Le Pen told Le Figaro that her father had made “a political mistake.”
“I am convinced that the meaning attributed to his words stems from a malicious interpretation,” she said according to The Telegraph. “Nevertheless, given Jean-Marie Le Pen’s very long experience, not to have anticipated the way those words would be interpreted is a political mistake and the Front National is suffering the consequences.”
The party’s deputy leader and Marine Le Pen’s partner called Mr. Le Pen’s comment “politically stupid and distressing.”
Marine Le Pen added that the controversy gave her an opportunity “to remind people that the Front National condemns any form of anti-Semitism in the strongest terms.”
Bruel who was target of the controversial comment responded on Twitter Sunday, writing, “Le Pen is reoffending. Did he need to remind us of his true face and that of the FN,” to which he attached the hashtags “#xenophobic #racist #anti-semitic #nausea.”
Reuters noted that in the past, “[Jean-Marie] Le Pen has often used subtle word play to hint at anti-Semitic views without clearly saying them.”
For example, in 199, he was convicted of inciting to racial hatred after saying Nazi gas chambers which killed European Jews during the Holocaust were “merely a detail in the history of the Second World War.”