Zemmour, French far-right pundit, launches presidential run

PARIS (AP) — A far-right former TV pundit with multiple hate-speech convictions officially entered the race for France’s presidency on Tuesday and warned his supporters that they will likely be called racists for backing his anti-immigration and anti-Islam views.

The launch of Eric Zemmour’s run for the presidency made official a campaign that had been gathering steam for months before it then stumbled of late — notably after the 63-year-old polemist raised a middle finger at a woman who did likewise to him over the weekend.

That flash of temper — which Zemmour later acknowledged on Twitter was “very inelegant” — cast fresh doubt on the temperament and electability of the author and former journalist. Zemmour has drawn comparisons in France to former U.S. President Donald Trump because of his rabble-rousing populism and ambitions of making the jump from the small screen to national leadership.

Name-dropping Joan of Arc, Napoléon Bonaparte and Gen. Charles de Gaulle, Zemmour announced his candidacy in a pre-recorded video, reading from notes and speaking into a large microphone. The pose evoked imagery of radio addresses that De Gaulle famously delivered during World War II as he urged France to rally to his call against Nazi Germany.

Already assailed by critics for his divisive views of France as a country mortally threatened by immigration and for his infamously sharp tongue, Zemmour warned supporters to brace for a bruising campaign ahead of the April election.

“They will tell you that you are racist,” he said. “They will say the worst things about me,”

Zemmour joins a crowded spectrum of candidates, from far left to far right. President Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek a second term but hasn’t yet declared his candidacy.