A far righteous cocktail with the press

The far-right's Le Pen dynasty has a love-hate relationship with the French media. It's the way it has always been. During his tenure as the National Front head honcho Jean-Marie Le Pen perfected the art of stealing the media spotlight with outrageous, and yes, sometimes dangerous, statements.


He would cast a nasty phrase targeting immigrants or gays; journalists would pounce on the bait; he would reel in a few headlines; then, quickly slam the press for misinterpreting and slandering him. Indeed, battling the establishment-aligned media -while at the same time basking in the glare of the cameras' flash- has been Le Pen's raison d'etre for decades.


In January 2011 as he bowed out to make room for his virtually-appointed successor, daughter Marine Le Pen, an incident between National Front security and, at the time, fellow France 24 journalist Mickael Szames, allowed Jean-Marie to do what he does best. Responding to allegations that the reporter was insulted by the FN's security detail for his Jewish background, Le Pen retorted “that's ridiculous, you couldn't tell from [Szames's] press badge or his nose that he was a Jew.” Par for the course when you're Jean-Marie Le Pen, but probably not the "parting gift" his daughter was hoping from him.


Since then Marine has been trying to make nubs of the National Front's rough edges, so naturally her rapport with the media has been somewhat different. As she campaigns for the 2012 French presidency, she has avoided making the inflammatory statements that made her father so infamous. But taking a cue from dad, she has portrayed herself as a victim of the mainstream media.

At Marine's big two-day presidential convention that started on Feb 18 in the city of Lille, the press was invited to a cocktail with the hostess. As is always the case on the campaign trail, she was mobbed coming into the press room. She graced reporters with a few hastily drawn-up words before making her way over to the hors d'oeuvres and wine table. But who was waiting there, glass in hand, for the joy of reporters? Good old dad.

Suddenly the attention was off Marine and on her sharp-tongued progenitor. Relieved at first, Marine took the opportunity for a break outside of the press room, but then as if sensing looming disaster she rushed back in. To no avail. A few reporters noticed she was still around and circled in search for sound bites. However, the spotlight was definitely and irremediably Jean-Marie's.

On the right Jean-Marie enjoys the lion's share of the media spotlight, while Marine Le Pen picks up the remaining crumbs left.

It's at this moment that one realizes that the two National Front leaders don't share the same relationship with the press. While they both understand they need the media's attention, Jean-Marie revels in it, while Marine simply tolerates it.


Knowing the battle was lost, Marine could be overheard asking “Who picked up my purse? Who has my purse?” before shrinking out of the press room. Last I checked Jean-Marie Le Pen was still chewing the fat with reporters.

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