France’s Justice Minister Christiane Taubira is facing legal action from the country’s far-right Front National (FN) for saying the group is racist and homophobic.
She made the remarks in response to an FN party member who compared Ms Taubira to a monkey.
Anne-Sophie Leclere, an FN candidate standing in a small town in the north-eastern Ardennes region, posted images on her Facebook page of a baby monkey, with the caption: “At 18 months”, next to a photo of Ms Taubira, with the caption: “Now”.
Ms Leclere denied any racist intent – but last week told a TV interviewer – “I’d rather see her (Taubira) in the branches of a tree than in the government.”
Ms Leclere has since been dropped as a candidate.
Christiane Taubira said it showed the FN’s “lethal and murderous” views could be summed up as follows: “It’s the blacks into the branches of the trees, the Arabs into the sea, the homosexuals into the river Seine, the Jews into the ovens and so on.”
“Nothing justifies the expression of such hatred towards an entire party and its millions of voters,” FN hit back in a statement. The party said it plans to sue Ms Taubira in order to force her to “respect the rules of democratic and republican debate”.
She opened the debate with a heartfelt speech which also referred to France’s principles as a free and equal nation, earning her a standing ovation from her fellow deputies.
In stark contrast, Marine Le Pen’s Front National has been accused of instigating homophobic violence across France and aligning itself with aggressive anti-equal marriage factions.
The incident with Ms Taubira comes as FN is enjoying a surge in the opinion polls, with one suggesting it could achieve 24% of the vote in next May’s European elections in France – the highest of any party.