A new biography of France's most famous (and) notorious far-right political figure, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has revealed some peculiar details of his long and eventful life, but generally depicts the firebrand in a favorable light.
Le Pen, now 84 years old, founded the extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant National Front (FN) party and led it for decades before relinquishing leadership to his daughter Marine.
Among other revelations, “Le Pen, A French Story,” by investigative authors Pierre Péan and Philippe Cohen, allege that Le Pen once had a homosexual liasion, is obsessed with money, and has tried to alienate his daughter Marine from his granddaughter Marion Maréchal, who at 24, is France's youngest MP. (Marion is Marine's niece).
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Perhaps most controversially, the authors claim that Le Pen did not participate in "institutional torture" during the independence war in Algeria, disputing many prior reports.
The book also suggests that Le Pen never had any real ambitions for higher office and treated the FN as his private piggy-bank and personal empire.
Regarding intrigue within the Le Pen clan itself, the book claims "seeing Marine moving out of his control, Le Pen decided to put Marion in her path," suggesting Le Pen encouraged his granddaughter to run as an
MP in order to weaken Marine's power and influence.
"Marion is perhaps more talented than Marine, as she has her head on her shoulders and is more rational," he allegedly said.
With respect to Le Pen's alleged homosexual tryst, the book claims that André Labarèrre, a now-deceased former Socialist MP and longtime mayor of the city of Pau in the southwest, had a "tender initiation into pleasure between men" with Le Pen.
Le Pen has denied the allegations, charging that Labarèrre "fantasized" about him.
Le Pen's long association with Nazism is also questioned. The book claims that in 1987, Le Pen was warmly received at a World Jewish Congress meeting in New York, even generating a standing ovation after declaring he wanted the PLO office in Paris shut down.
One of the book's authors, Cohen (who is Jewish) told French media: "Personally, I don't believe Le Pen is a fascist, a Nazi or anti-republican and his repeated insults against Jews ... don't necessarily spring from obsessive anti-Semitism.”
Cohen added that Le Pen is instead a "narcissistic, terribly egocentric and destructive" figure who wants to create a "dark legend" about himself.
Perhaps the most bizarre detail in the biography concerns Le Pen's apparent interest in pursuing wealthy elderly women.
"His taste for money led him to become particularly interested in old people, often old women," the book said.
Specifically, Le Pen allegedly became friendly with a 77-year-old woman named Solange Léonet who admired him so much she handed him about $19,000 in cash at a party in Auxerre, Burgundy, in 1984.
She reportedly continued providing him with cash and even gold bars.