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French far-right presidential contender slammed for pointing gun at journalists

Eric Zemmour has yet to declare candidacy for next April’s election, but is positioning himself to eclipse Marine Le Pen as anti-elite challenger to Macron

Hard-right political talk-show star Eric Zemmour acknowledges applauses as he arrived on stage during a meeting to promote his latest book "La France n'a pas dit son dernier mot" (France has not yet said its last word) in Versailles, west of Paris, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Hard-right political talk-show star Eric Zemmour acknowledges applauses as he arrived on stage during a meeting to promote his latest book "La France n'a pas dit son dernier mot" (France has not yet said its last word) in Versailles, west of Paris, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS — French far-right presidential hopeful Eric Zemmour pointed a sniper’s rifle at journalists at an arms fair on Wednesday, a stunt that reinforced his anti-media populist credentials but that drew condemnation from opponents.

Zemmour, who has emerged as a front-runner for presidential elections next year, turned the weapon on reporters at the Milipol arms fair in Paris, telling them with a smile: “It’s serious now, eh? Get back, move.”

Zemmour, a former journalist and member of France’s Jewish community who is an admirer of ex-US president Donald Trump, has yet to declare his candidacy for the polls next April, but is positioning himself as an anti-elite, anti-immigration champion.

Like Trump, he has long criticized “establishment” media and hopes to build a political coalition of white working-class voters and wealthy conservatives.

French Junior Interior Minister Marlene Schiappa led criticism of Zemmour on Wednesday, tweeting that his actions were “horrifying” and “not funny.”

“In a democracy, press freedom is not a joke and should not be threatened,” she wrote.

Provocative anti-immigration commentator Eric Zemmour, right, gestures prior to a televised debate against French far-left leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon in Paris, Thursday Sept. 23, 2021. (Bertrand Guay, Pool Photo via AP)

Zemmour responded by calling Schiappa an “imbecile” and accusing her of “trying to whip up a grotesque controversy.”

A recent poll showed Zemmour eclipsing traditional French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of next year’s election, but later losing to centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

Speaking over the weekend in Beziers in southern France, the 63-year-old argued that the justice system, the media and minorities had taken control in France and that their powers needed to be reduced.

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