Marine Le Pen denounced her 86-year-old father Wednesday after he stated that gas chambers were “merely a detail of history” in World War II — remarks strikingly similar to those he’s made repeatedly in the past.
Since founding the far-right FN in 1972 – the party his daughter now leads — Jean-Marie Le Pen has made a name for himself as France’s foremost nationalist. Since 1987, he’s also embarked on a tenacious campaign to get everyone to relax about history’s most infamous genocide. He’s defended the Vichy government as not “particularly inhumane,” a sentiment the 70,000 Jews deported from occupied France and murdered would presumably disagree with. Lest anyone should assume Jean-Marie misspoke, he has doubled-down on his views for decades.
While Jean-Marie might have been comfortable in his role as a disruptive opposition figure in a relatively unelectable party, his daughter Marine is not. Since taking the wheel from her aging father in 2011, Marine has been actively rebranding the Front National. And under her leadership, FN has indeed gained popularity. Marine’s rebuke of her father was her sharpest turn away from him yet: “Jean-Marie Le Pen seems to be in a total spiral of strategy somewhere between scorched earth and political suicide,” she said. “His status as honorary president does not give him the right to hijack the Front National with vulgar provocations seemingly designed to damage me, but which unfortunately hit the whole movement.”
An inconvenient dilemma faces Marine Le Pen. On one hand, she’s clearly pleased to campaign for the French presidency within her dad’s party, on the xenophobic and hateful platform he helped to build. On the other, most French people are pretty convinced that the Holocaust was real. Anti-migrant and anti-Islam posturing are at the core of FN ideology. So Marine is going full-on Shakespeare, and eliminating her father as an obstacle to her unbridled political ambitions. (Jean-Marie seems to see the parallels as well — after his daughter’s harsh words, he told another radio station Thursday that “she may want me dead.”)
Marine has bent over backwards trying to convince the French people that hating Muslims is totally different than hating Jews, and it appears to be working. She topped recent presidential polls in the country, with around 30% of respondents expressing their support. The future of the party — and its controversial patriarch — remains in question, but other FN higher-ups reportedly support Marine.
Jean-Marie Le Pen has thus far refused to be ousted from the FN, short of Marine slipping an apothecary’s poison into his goblet. We’ll have to wait until Act V to find out.