Jean-Marie Le PenPolitical Figure
Born: 20 June 1928
Birthplace: La Trinite-sur-Mar, France
Best known as: Leader of France's National Front party
Jean-Marie Le Pen is the founder and leader of the French political party known as the National Front, a coalition of nationalist groups formed in 1972. A staunch and sometimes outrageous defender of French culture, Le Pen has been accused of being a racist and anti-Semite by his critics. He's no stranger to controversy: in 1987 he caused a stir when he referred to the Holocaust as a "detail of war;" in 1990 he was convicted of inciting racial hatred for making statements casting doubt on the Nazi persecution of Jews and Gypsies; and in 2002 he was fined for defaming his former political partner, Bruno Megret. The day after he was found guilty of defamation and fined, Le Pen won an upset in a preliminary presidential election, gaining nearly 20% of the vote and positioning himself to run against incumbent president Jacques Chirac. Le Pen, seen by many as an extremist, was overwhelmingly defeated in the election, winning only 18% of the vote. After the election Le Pen's daughter, Marine, moved up quickly in the ranks of the National Front. Under Marine's influence, the party has tried to soften its rhetoric and improve its public image. But in 2006 Le Pen was fined and ordered to pay damages to the League of Human Rights for comments he made in 2003 that France should "beware" of Muslim immigrants.
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