Eric Zemmour found guilty of hate speech

Eric Zemmour, the right-wing pundit, author, and candidate for president of France, has been found guilty of inciting racial hatred. He was fined $11,400 for the offense and faces imprisonment if doesn’t pay.

According to the Washington Post, during a 2020 debate Zemmour described unaccompanied child migrants to France as “thieves,” “killers,” and “rapists.” Apparently, he forgot, or saw no need, to drop the Donald Trump footnote that “some, I assume, are good people.”

That’s unfortunate. Without at least that qualification, the statement is unwarranted and does tend to arouse racial or ethnic hatred.

But it’s also unfortunate that in France, Zemmour’s comment is a crime, and that he has reportedly been tried 15 times and convicted three times now for remarks that, if one believes in free speech, he should be able to make without going on trial.

Zemmour, who is Jewish, was tried for arguing in a 2019 television debate that Marshal Philippe Petain, head of Vichy’s collaborationist government during World War II, saved France’s Jews from the Holocaust. He was acquitted because the court found he made the comments in the heat of the moment. Zemmour’s take on Petain and the Jews is preposterous, but he should be free to state it, whether in the heat or after much deliberation.

Zemmour is competing with Marine Le Pen for the anti-immigration vote, a considerable portion of the French electorate. His extreme statements may win him some support with that cohort, but preclude him, I think, from ever being elected president of France.

In my view, Zemmour disserves the anti-immigration cause when he defames without qualification a whole category of children.

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