Donald Trump personally offered encouragement to Eric Zemmour, claims far-right French leader’s campaign

Challenger to Emmanuel Macron has been fined for inciting race hate as he struggles to outpace Marine Le Pen

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 15 February 2022 13:30
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<p>Presidential Rally Of Far-Right Candidate Eric Zemmour</p>

Presidential Rally Of Far-Right Candidate Eric Zemmour

A campaign official for French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour has claimed the far-right contender received a personal call of encouragement from none other than Donald Trump.

Speaking on France 2 television, campaign vice-chairman Guillaume Peltier said the two men spoke for some 40 minutes on Monday evening, with the former American president offering Mr Zemmour moral support.

Saying that the Zemmour campaign had reached out to Mr Trump’s office on its own initiative, Mr Peltier claimed: “Donald Trump told Eric Zemmour not to give in, hold firm, stay courageous” – and assured him that tenacity is what ultimately wins a presidential campaign.

Mr Trump’s team so far has not confirmed that the conversation took place, or its content.

While incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron continues to poll at the top of a crowded field, Mr Zemmour is currently struggling to overtake nationalist Marine Le Pen and mainstream Republican candidate Valérie Pécresse in the race for runner-up. Whoever comes second in the first round on 10 April will face Mr Macron head-on in a runoff two weeks later.

Ms Le Pen had that chance in 2017, when Mr Macron ran for the first time; having bested both the Republicans’ Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, she lost to Mr Macron by a vast 33-point margin.

While Mr Trump does share certain political tendencies with the Islamophobic and rigidly anti-immigration Ms Le Pen, he stopped short of endorsing her in 2017 – although he did publicly refer to her as “strongest on borders” and “the strongest on what’s been going on in France”.

Mr Zemmour’s campaign has been beset by controversy since he began it last year. In January he was fined €10,000 (£8,350) for the offence of inciting racial hatred after remarks he made about children arriving in France which echoed Mr Trump’s infamous comments on Mexican people coming to the US.

“All these young people are from an immigrant background. They have no place here,” Mr Zemmour said during a televised debate. “They are thieves, they are murderers, they are rapists, that’s all they are – they must all be sent back, and they shouldn’t come in the first place.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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