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Bannon to French right: 'Let them call you racist'

March 10, 2018

Steve Bannon, who served as President Donald Trump's chief strategist, delivered a call to arms for far right politics. He also met privately with the National Front's embattled leader, Marine Le Pen.

Steve Bannon and Marine Le Pen in Lille
Image: picture alliance/MAXPPP/dpa/P. Pauchet

Steve Bannon, a right-wing firebrand and former member of President Donald Trump's inner circle, voiced support for far-right politics in France and the embattled leader of the National Front (FN) at a party conference in Lille on Saturday.

"History is on our side," Bannon told Marine Le Pen's nationalist supporters. 

"Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor."

Bannon praised Le Pen's vision of a political spectrum that pits nationalists against globalists instead of left versus right, as he denounced central banks, central governments and "crony capitalists."

"You're part of a worldwide movement bigger than France, bigger than Italy," Bannon told National Front supporters.

Controversial appearance

His appearance was first announced in an overnight tweet by FN Vice President Louis Aliot.

"Peoples are waking up and taking their destiny back into their own hands," Aliot wrote.

Bannon was once Trump's chief strategist and championed his "America First" agenda during both the campaign and the president's first eight months in office. He was fired in August after US Marine General John Kelly took over as chief of staff at the White House.

Le Pen defended Bannon's presence at the party conference, saying it was important to listen to the man who was "the architect of Donald Trump's victory" and has written about globalization, protectionism and redistributing power that "has been practically illegally captured by the elite."

France’s Le Pen praises AfD ‘allies’

An honorary president

Bannon also met privately with FN leader Marine Le Pen, 49, as she seeks to rebrand the party with a new name in an effort to broaden its appeal.

The name is expected to be unveiled on Sunday, only shortly before the party delegates vote on it. As right-wing, anti-immigrant parties gain strength across Europe, Le Pen says the party needs to build broader alliances if it ever wants to govern.

Also on Sunday, the FN is expected to amend the party's rules, primarily to finally rid itself of its combative founder, Marine Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. The 89-year-old was expelled from the party in 2015 for repeatedly downplaying the Holocaust. However, a court overruled his expulsion.

He was made an honorary party president for life after his daughter took over the party leadership in 2011. She has sought to smooth over some of the party's roughest edges, but her father continues to carp from the sidelines.

bik/aw (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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