Former White House strategist and former Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon re-energized France’s struggling far-right National Front party Saturday by speaking at a party congress and telling Marine Le Pen’s nationalist supporters: “History is on our side.”
Bannon’s appearance in Lille, France, was part of a European tour as he seeks an international platform for his “economic nationalism” message that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency.
“Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor,” he told the crowd at the party congress.
“Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.”
The National Front has never won the French presidency, and the congress is aimed at remaking its image after Le Pen’s defeat to Emmanuel Macron in last year’s presidential election.
“You’re part of a worldwide movement bigger than France, bigger than Italy,” Bannon told National Front supporters, denouncing central banks, central governments and “crony capitalists.”
The tour comes as Bannon’s role in American politics is uncertain. He was ousted from the White House last year amid tensions and stepped down as chairman of Breitbart News Network in January after a public break with Trump.
Despite warnings that Bannon’s support could damage Le Pen’s efforts to cleanse the National Front of the racist stigma that has plagued the party’s image, Le Pen defended the invite, saying it was important to listen to the man who was “the architect of Donald Trump’s victory.”
Bannon has publicly praised Le Pen’s niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen in the past, and she galvanized the crowd at a recent convention of U.S. conservatives. Marechal-Le Pen bowed out of politics after her aunt’s presidential defeat, but is expected to return in a new role.
Marine Le Pen wants to revive her own fortunes by changing the name, leadership structure and bylaws of the National Front, which was co-founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 1972.
Since taking over the National Front’s presidency in 2011, Marine Le Pen has worked to broaden the party’s appeal by erasing the footprint of her father, who has multiple convictions for racism and anti-Semitism.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.