Eric Zemmour, the French far-right pundit and TV journalist who has been called “France’s Trump,” sparked a scandal in French media earlier this week when he announced his presidential bid with a video that incited nationalist fervor and included unauthorized footage from classic movies, TV shows, newscasts and soccer games.
The controversy echoes musicians such as Neil Young and the Rolling Stones threatening lawsuits over Donald Trump’s campaign using their songs..
French production powerhouse Gaumont and the producers of the popular primetime show “Quotidien” are among those who have threatened to sue Zemmour over the use of their materials in the video.
The 10-minute clip — the first of its kind posted by a French presidential candidate to social media — is set to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and shows Zemmour sitting at a desk with imagery reminiscent of French General Charles de Gaulle’s 1940 filmed appeal to resist the Nazi occupation.
In the clip, Zemmour illustrates his speech with images from iconic films such as Luc Besson’s “Joan Of Arc” and Henri Verneuil’s “A Monkey In Winter,” which are part of the Gaumont library, as well as cult movies like Claude Sautet’s “The Things Of Life” and Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless,” whose rights are owned by Studiocanal. These classics are meant to epitomize France’s cultural heritage and history, which Zemmour argues have been degraded by decades of “pro-immigration” politics.
Besson told the AFP that the images were used “in a fraudulent manner” and that he “shares none of Eric Zemmour’s ideas.”
“Our governments, both right-wing and left-wing, have led you on this disastrous path. They have lied to you and hidden the gravity of our decline,” said Zemmour, alluding to the Muslim population in France, which he claims has taken over the country and diluted Christian values.
“I have decided to solicit your vote and become president so that our children and grandchildren will not face barbarism, so that our daughters will not wear the veil and so that we will be able to leave them a France the way [they would have] inherited from our ancestors,” said Zemmour.
The production of Yann Barthes’ show “Quotidien,” which airs on TMC, a TF1 channel, has reacted to the clip saying that if “Eric Zemmour had made the request for the rights to all the images [he used in his clip], he would have had to spend around €100,000. Surely, that’s a lot, but it’s less than what he’s going to have to pay after the lawsuits.”
The show’s production team said any funds generated from the lawsuit will be distributed to organizations helping refugees.
Gaumont, meanwhile, stated that it “discovered with great stupefaction” the use of its materials, which it had not cleared. The company said it “reserves the right to take legal action.”
Zemmour, who became famous through his participation in the weekly TV magazine “On est pas couchés,” is considered to be significantly more radical and anti-Islam than far right veteran Marine Le Pen, who has rebranded her political party from the Front National to Rassemblement National in order to widen her base. Compared to Zemmour, she’s now considered “too soft” for traditional far right voters, including the younger generation.
The “France’s Trump” moniker was given by French journalists who pointed to the candidate’s taste for shocking punch lines that could be described as hate speech and for spreading fake news that attempts to rewrite history.
Zemmour went so far as to say on French news channel CNews that Marechal Petain, who led the Vichy government during WW2 and zealously collaborated with the Nazis, had protected French Jews during the Holocaust — when it fact it has been proved that Petain played an active role in the deportation of 77,000 Jews to concentration camps, including children.
Zemmour also said that unaccompanied foreign minors were “thieves, they’re murderers, they’re rapists, that’s all they are. We must send them back.” That comment caused him to be charged with incitement to racial hatred.
The first round of the presidential election will take place on April 10. French President Emmanuel Macron, who has yet to announce that he’s running for a second term, is well-positioned for a re-election. A poll conducted by Odoxa, Mascaret for Public Senate, LCP and the regional press revealed that 44% of French people believe that Emmanuel Macron is a “good president.”