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Presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul’s office explained today his decision to meet later this fall with French politician Marine Le Pen, whose party has been connected to anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment.
In an email, the Texas Republican’s spokeswoman, Rachel Mills, said, “Paul generally meets with foreign politicians and political leaders who request a meeting, particularly when they share his interest in monetary policy and the destructive nature of central banks.”
The National Front has long been associated with conservative reaction to France’s immigration policies and anti-Muslim sentiments.
But since taking control of the party in January, Le Pen has significantly expanded the National Front’s influence in France by focusing on global and regional economic concerns.
In that sense, she and Paul have some commonalities. Although he was largely marginalized during the 2008 presidential campaign, many of Paul’s libertarian views have since been embraced by many Republicans, and he remains popular among fiscal conservatives.
Still, the meeting is sure to raise eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic. The National Front, founded by Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, in 1972, has repeatedly been accused of attempting to incite violence against France’s growing Muslim, North-African population.
The elder Le Pen, who led the National Front until his daughter took over, has been one of France’s most divisive political figures. In 2004, a French court fined him 10,000 euros for “inciting racial hatred” in a newspaper interview, according to an AP article at the time. Le Pen had been found guilty of racism or anti-Semitism a total of six times as of 2004, according to the AP.