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Le Pen Expelled From French National Front

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Le Pen Expelled From French National Front

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Le Pen Expelled From French National Front

Le Pen Expelled From French National Front

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Jean Marie Le Pen, longtime leader of France's far-right political party, has been ousted after a feud with his daughter, the current party leader.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Jean Marie Le Pen, the founder of France's far-right National Front party, has been ousted by his daughter. She's been trying to bring the party more into the mainstream, but her father's behavior wasn't helping. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley brings us the latest episode of this political and family drama.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: After meeting for three-and-a-half hours Thursday evening, the executive committee of the National Front party voted overwhelmingly to expel Jean Marie Le Pen and revoke his lifetime title as honorary president. Speaking on the radio this morning, Le Pen said he had been treated ruthlessly.

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JEAN MARIE LE PEN: (Through interpreter) I feel indignation and sadness because, let me tell you, when you are persecuted by the director of a movement that you founded and she's your daughter to boot, yes, that hurts.

BEARDSLEY: At issue are different visions for the future of the National Front says Nonna Mayer, an expert on the far-right at Sciences Po University in Paris. Mayer says Jean Marie Le Pen thought he could continue to influence the party when he groomed his daughter to replace him in 2011.

NONNA MAYER: She is for him his creature.

BEARDSLEY: But Le Pen's creature has escaped him, says Mayer.

MAYER: He is no more the master in the party, so there's a kind of jealousy there.

BEARDSLEY: Marine Le Pen, a 47-year-old lawyer and mother of three, is a shrewd politician, just like her father. And she's attracting a new generation of French voters. The younger Le Pen is working to de-demonize the National Front by breaking with its racist anti-Semitic past.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: This spring, in interviews with the media, including this radio talk show, the elder Le Pen made outrageous comments defending France's wartime leader Marechal-Petain and the French colonization of Algeria. But worst of all, he repeated a statement that earned him a fine for hate speech in the 1980s - that the Nazi gas chambers were just a detail in the history of World War II. National Front spokesman Florian Philippot says the party had to cut Le Pen off.

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FLORIAN PHILIPPOT: (Through interpreter) His exclusion is logical. He has gone from outrageous provocation to provocation. And then there are his personal attacks on all of us. We had to react.

BEARDSLEY: Nonna Mayer says Jean Marie Le Pen believes he's fighting for his honor and for the soul of the party he created 43 years ago. He has said publicly that nobody wants a nicer National Front. While some French people don't believe his daughter is really changing the party, Mayer believes she does have a different outlook and she has never publicly uttered any anti-Semitic statements.

MAYER: It's also a question of generation. She was born in 1968. For her history, it's not World War II and it's not decolonization and it's not Algerie Francaise. She's looking forward.

BEARDSLEY: The National Front has been trying unsuccessfully to separate from its firebrand founder since the spring. Jean Marie Le Pen has already sued once to have his status reinstated.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Jean Marie, Jean Marie.

BEARDSLEY: On May Day, the octogenarian showed up on the podium uninvited when the National Front held a rally in central Paris. Looking out at the crowd, the former Algerian war paratrooper shook his fists in defiance as his daughter looked on. Jean Marie Le Pen will no doubt crash the party again when the National Front holds its annual meeting in Marseille in early September. His lawyer has said his client plans to fight till his dying breath. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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