Jean-Marie Le Pen, the controversial father of France's far-right National Front, on Saturday voiced his support for billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump's insurgent bid for the White House. The de facto endorsement insinuates an unflattering — and unsought — connection between Trump and Le Pen, a known racist who was expelled last year from the National Front for his inflammatory rhetoric.
“If I were American, I would vote Donald Trump,” he wrote on Twitter Saturday in French. “But may God protect him!”
Si j’étais américain, je voterais Donald TRUMP… Mais que Dieu le protège !
— Jean-Marie Le Pen (@lepenjm) February 27, 2016
Le Pen has advocated a view of the "inequality of the races" and has downplayed the significance of the Holocaust. He has also been charged with inciting violence against Muslims.
Under the direction of his daughter, Marine Le Pen, the National Front has sought to move into mainstream French political life and has seen growing electoral legitimacy in recent years. But the party’s calls for increased border security have been sharply denounced by critics who accuse party leaders of peddling racially tinged, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ideas.
Many of Trump’s critics have accused him of xenophobia, pointing to his proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country and his calls to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Trump has strongly dismissed those accusations, pointing to his business relationships with diverse parties. The billionaire grew frustrated Friday when reporters pressed him on a recent endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, an American white nationalist.
“David Duke endorsed me? Okay, all right. I disavow, okay?” Trump said.
Trump has sought to move beyond those accusations as he moves closer to securing the GOP nomination. The Republican establishment has watched Trump's rise with apprehension, fearful that his sharp language on immigration reform — which is popular among some Republicans but regarded with suspicion on the left — will doom the party's chances to win the White House during the general election.
The Trump campaign did not immediately return a request for comment on Le Pen's comment.