Steve Bannon tells French National Front rally: 'Let them call you racist…wear it as a badge of honour'


Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon urged a French National Front rally to “let them call you racist” and “wear it as a badge of honour.”

The former Breitbart chairman was a surprise speaker at the party’s conference in Lille, which saw party leader Marine Le Pen launch a proposal to rename the group to the National Rally, opening a new era after her resounding defeat in last year’s presidential race. 

Mr Bannon told the far-right audience “history is on our side” as he told attendees to “let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists.”

The 64-year-old said he had come to deliver the address to “learn” from the Europeans. 

“What I’ve learned is you are part of a worldwide movement that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than Hungary, bigger than all of it,” he said.

He provoked widespread cheers when he added: “The opposition media — the running dogs of the global corporate elite called Trump and Bannon white supremacists… but President Trump’s economic nationalism does not care about your race, your religion, your ethnicity… It cares about one thing: Are you a citizen of the United States of America?”

Ms Le Pen thanked Mr Bannon for his appearance on Sunday, saying it was an “honour to listen to the man who inspired Trump’s 2016 election campaign.”

The National Front of the past has been a political force for decades, a kingmaker in numerous elections and a key player in others, notably for the European Parliament, where it won more seats than any other French party. But Ms Le Pen herself may have credibility issues.

Mr Bannon heaped praise on the rising star of the party – Ms Le Pen’s conservative niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who is popular with traditional catholics. 

Ms Le Pen recently said she is not opposed to ceding her leadership but wants to stay on for at least three more years. 

In a nod to the apparently large contingent of members opposed to a name change, Ms Le Pen noted that the National Front name, which the party has had since its founding in 1972, is linked to a “glorious” past. However, she said it serves as a psychological barrier for potential new members and voters, notably the word “front,” which connotes opposition. 

However, she also reassured members who fear the party is moving away from its core. She defended the French identity and attacked what she painted as the dark forces that threaten it. 

“Globalisation and Islamisation are two ideologies that want to dominate the world,” she said to cheers. “In France, when you’re a foreigner, you respect our laws… When you’re a foreigner and a delinquent, you must get on a plane,” she said, drawing cries of “On est chez nous” (We are in our land). 

Earlier in the month, the far-right leader was charged over tweets depicting Isis propaganda and violence.

The charges were issued for “distribution of violent images,” the prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said.

If the case reaches trial and she is convicted, the 49-year-old could face three years in prison and a €75,000 (£66,000) fine.

Despite her troubles, Ms Le Pen was re-elected to a new term as party president at the congress — the only candidate for the post. 

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