PARIS, France — French President Emmanuel Macron’s party on Friday apologized for inviting to the Elysee Palace a comedian convicted of making death threats after his presence sparked an uproar on the right.
Conservative and far-right figures have been quick to make the link between Yassine Belattar, who they accuse of ties to Islamists, and Macron’s decision to stay away from Sunday’s nationwide march against antisemitism.
“I regret (the invitation) because I think he has no place being hosted by staff at the Elysee,” Sylvain Maillard, chief of Macron’s Renaissance party in the lower house of parliament, told broadcaster FranceInfo.
Weekly magazine L’Express reported two of Macron’s advisers met Belattar at the presidential palace last week to get a sense of views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in France’s troubled low-income suburbs.
Belattar, a comedian and radio presenter, was added in 2018 to a presidential advisory body on the neighborhoods.
But he has long been accused by conservatives and the far right of Islamist sympathies.
In September, he was handed a four-month suspended jail sentence for death threats against several showbiz personalities.
L’Express suggested that the meeting fed into Macron’s decision to stay away from the march against antisemitism, which has surged in France since Hamas’s devastating October 7 onslaught and Israel’s offensive against the terror group in the Gaza Strip.
“So (Macron) gets advice on participating in the march against antisemitism from Yassine Belattar, recently sentenced for death threats and known for his links to Islamists,” Marine Le Pen, the 2017 and 2022 presidential candidate for the far-right National Rally (RN), wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Le Pen and her party — founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was convicted of Holocaust denial — controversially joined Sunday’s demonstration against antisemitism, a new step in their years-long campaign to soften their image.
Belattar himself joked about the controversy over his invitation in a message posted on Instagram.
“French media has become an echo chamber for the most blinkered racists in this country,” he wrote.
“I understand and support the Jewish community in its completely overwhelming emotional reaction to the events of October 7, just as I support the Palestinian people following the bombings of the 8, 9, 10, 11, 12..,” Belattar added.
The war was triggered on October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed into Israel via the destroyed Gaza border fence, unleashing a massacre in southern Israel. The terror group killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took some 240 hostages.
Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and launched an operation carried out by air, sea and on the ground. The Gaza health ministry has reported more than 11,500 deaths since October 7, but the numbers cannot be independently verified and are thought to include the terror group’s own members, as well as civilians killed by misfired rockets.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.