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France's Le Pen Forced Out Of Far-Right Party He Founded

French far-right National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen arrives for a news briefing at party headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris, on Thursday. The executive committee decided to expel Le Pen from the party over remarks downplaying the Holocaust. i

French far-right National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen arrives for a news briefing at party headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris, on Thursday. The executive committee decided to expel Le Pen from the party over remarks downplaying the Holocaust. Christian Hartmann/Reuters/Landov hide caption

toggle caption Christian Hartmann/Reuters/Landov
French far-right National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen arrives for a news briefing at party headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris, on Thursday. The executive committee decided to expel Le Pen from the party over remarks downplaying the Holocaust.

French far-right National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen arrives for a news briefing at party headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris, on Thursday. The executive committee decided to expel Le Pen from the party over remarks downplaying the Holocaust.

Christian Hartmann/Reuters/Landov

Jean-Marie Le Pen, a stalwart of France's far-right wing for decades, has been expelled from the National Front he helped found — the culmination of a high-profile spat with his daughter and the party's president over remarks he made earlier this year downplaying the Holocaust.

Le Pen, 87, had been suspended from the party after he told French media in April that Nazi Germany's gas chambers were only "a detail of history" and for saying that Philippe Petain, the head of the collaboratist Vichy government during France's wartime occupation by Germany, had been misunderstood.

The National Front's executive committee questioned Le Pen for hours Thursday after he reiterated the remarks he had made a quarter-century ago. The committee then "deliberated and decided ... [on] the exclusion of Mr. Jean-Marie Le Pen" from the party, according to a statement issued by the executive board.

In the run-up to the board's meeting, Le Pen, who founded the National Front in 1973, filed a legal challenge against his suspension, but a court overturned it on July 2.

As The Associated Press notes, the Le Pen family feud "has mushroomed into a debilitating crisis for the anti-immigration party."

In the past, Marine Le Pen said her father should "no longer be able to speak in the name of the National Front."

AP reports that during the hearing Thursday, Le Pen "contested the executive bureau's right to judge him":

"Three hours later, Le Pen emerged sounding conciliatory. He referred to the bureau members 'not as judges, since I recused them, but as companions in combat.'

"'I expressed the hope that this episode ... can be a step toward the active reunification of the National Front,' he said."

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