LONDON: Controversial French-Jewish writer Eric Zemmour, who has been convicted three times for hate speech, has been selected as a potential presidential candidate to rival Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.
Zemmour, 62, recently sparked outrage after he described migrant minors arriving from Africa and the Arab world as “rapists”, “murderers” and “thieves.”
An essayist, TV pundit and author, he could run in next year’s French elections as a rival to Le Pen, who will stage her third campaign for the presidency.
Last month, polling among right-wing readers of the Valeurs actuelles magazine revealed that 13 percent of voters would support a Zemmour campaign.
Despite being dismissed by mainstream French politics and society, he is a powerful figure on the right, and has said: “Islam is driving France toward disaster.”
Zemmour is also a columnist for Le Figaro daily newspaper, and enjoys an extensive following as a pundit on TV station CNews, whose national reach and political sway have often been compared to that of Fox News in the US.
Despite having no experience with electoral or party politics, his brand has often been promoted by those on the French right who argue that a fresh outsider could propel anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rhetoric into the mainstream.
Le Pen, who has long sought the presidency, is now polling in first place among potential first-round candidates with 26 percent. Zemmour previously rejected offers to join the National Rally.
Among supporters of a Zemmour bid are Jacques Bompard, right-wing mayor of the city of Orange, and CNews owner Vincent Bollore, who is rumored to be considering bankrolling the campaign.