Born In: La Trinité-sur-Mer, France
French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the political party National Front (now known as National Rally) and served as its president. Known for his controversial remarks and fascist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Semitic stance, he has often been in trouble in the political scene. He was once convicted for downplaying the Holocaust and has also been fined for his remarks against Muslims in France. He has previously been a Member of the National Assembly and a Member of the European Parliament. However, he was expelled from his own party due to his controversial statements. His daughter, Marine, now serves as the party president. A qualified lawyer, he has also had a significant military career. He has attempted to become the French president multiple times but failed.
Also Known As: Jean Louis Marie Le Pen
Spouse/Ex-: Jeanne-Marie Paschos (m. 1991), Pierrette Lalanne (m. 1960–1987)
father: Jean Le Pen
mother: Anne-Marie Hervé
children: Marie Caroline Le Pen, Marie-Caroline Le Pen, Marine Le Pen, Yann Le Pen
Born Country: France
Notable Alumni: Panthéon-Assas University
Founder/Co-Founder: National Front
education: Panthéon-Assas University
Jean-Marie Le Pen was born Jean Louis Marie Le Pen, on June 20, 1928 in La Trinité-sur-Mer, a small coastal village and fishing port in Brittany, France. He was the only son of Jean Le Pen and Anne Marie Hervé.
While his mother was a seamstress, his father, Jean Le Pen, was a fisherman and sailor and was lost at sea in 1942, after his boat was destroyed in a mine explosion. After being orphaned at a young age, Le Pen became a Ward of the Nation and received a Jesuit education at a boarding school named François Xavier, located in Vannes.
Raised a Roman Catholic, he later studied at the lycée of Lorient and then joined the law school at the University of Paris in the 1940s. He had his first political experience when he became a student union leader in Toulouse and then served as the president of the law students’ union Association corporative des étudiants en droit.
In 1944, at age 16, he tried to join the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) but was rejected due to his age. Following a later stint in the military, he joined the Panthéon-Assas University to study political science and law. at. His graduate thesis was on the anarchist movement in France since 1945.
Following the completion of his law degree, Jean-Marie Le Pen joined the 1st Foreign Paratroop Battalion and, in 1954, enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. He reached Indochina after the 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu, which France had lost.
Le Pen was thus sent to Suez in 1956 but, there too, he arrived after the cease-fire. He had previously also been part of a disaster relief team sent for flood relief in the Netherlands and earthquake relief in Italy.
In 1956, he was elected to the National Assembly of Paris as part of shopkeeper turned radical-right politician Pierre Poujade's UDCA populist party. He thus became the deputy for the Seine. The following year, Le Pen was chosen as the General Secretary of the veterans’ organization named the National Front of Combatants.
However, he later feuded with Poujade and joined the Centre National des indépendants et paysans, being re-elected as their representative in 1958. Soon, he joined the French Foreign Legion again for a few months. In 1957, he was sent to Algeria as an intelligence officer.
In 1964-66, he supported the Tixier-Vignancour committees (or comités TV), a grassroots movement geared toward promoting the presidential campaign of far-right politician Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour.
In 1972, Jean-Marie Le Pen established the National Front party and became its president. The party aimed at uniting the French radical right and included quite a few former members of the neo-fascist groups Occident and Ordre Nouveau. The party’s main stance was anti-immigration, and they were particularly against Arab immigrants from former French colonies of North Africa, who had settled in France.
Le Pen and his party supported capital punishment and were against the construction of new mosques in France. They also went against European integration.
However, Le Pen’s policies garnered support, especially from the French working class. He also took advantage of the economic crisis, unemployment, and rise in crimes in France. From March 1983 to March 1989, he served as the Municipal Councillor of Paris.
Le Pen adopted an anti-Atlantist position and criticized the French policy in the Persian Gulf in the early 1990s. In 1996, while on a visit to Baghdad, Le Pen urged the UN to lift its sanctions against Iraq. He also blamed the US for bringing about suffering in Iraq. Le Pen’s wife, Jany, presented Iraqi health officials with medical necessities.
He ran for president several times but was not successful. In the first round of the 2002 presidential election, he defeated Lionel Jispin but was beaten in the second round, with the people wholeheartedly supporting Jacques Chirac.
In January 2011, he retired from his post of the National Front president and was succeeded by his daughter Marine Le Pen. However, he continued as the Honorary President of the National Front till 2015, when he was expelled from the party due to his controversial remarks.
In 1984 to 2019, he served as an elected member of the European Parliament. In 2005, he went against the idea of constitution of the European Union
In May 2009, the European Parliament stopped Le Pen from presiding over its opening session, by voting. He now represents the Jeanne Committees, a party he founded in 2016, after being expelled from the National Front.
Jean-Marie Le Pen has often been in trouble for his controversial remarks. In the 1960s, he received a two-month suspended prison sentence and was fined 10,000 francs for an apology of war crimes.
He violated France’s law that prohibits Holocaust denial when, in the 1980s, he described the Holocaust as a “detail” in World War II history. In 1998, he was banned for seeking political office for two years after being convicted of assaulting a political rival.
His beliefs, too, have often been termed racist and anti-Semitic. He has always supported neo-Nazi groups and was convicted for anti-Semitism in 1987. He once also suggested that AIDS patients mostly contract the disease through sodomy. He also added that AIDS patients should be held in specialized homes, which he called "Aidatoriums."
In 2015, tabloids reported that his daughter, Marine, was angry with him for defending his previous “gas chamber” comment, in which he had described Nazi gas chambers as a “detail of history.”
In 2016, Le Pen was asked to repay €320,000 to the European Parliament, as the amount had been wrongly paid to a parliamentary assistant. The same year, it was found that many of Le Pen’s close contacts had been implicated in the Panama Papers. In 2017, he was in trouble for inciting racial hatred by targeting at a Jewish singer.
Jean-Marie Le Pen married his first wife, Pierrette Le Pen, a former model, on June 29, 1960. She was the daughter of a wine-seller from southwestern France, and her marriage to Le Pen was her second marriage.
The couple had three daughters, Marie-Caroline, Yann, and Marine, and eight grandchildren. Their youngest daughter, Marine, later led the National Front.
Le Pen and Pierrette divorced in March 1987. She later posed nude in Playboy to ridicule him, as he had refused to pay her alimony.
On May 31, 1991, Le Pen married Jeanne-Marie Paschos, better known as Jany. She is of Greek descent and was previously married to Belgian entrepreneur Jean Garnier.
In 1977, Le Pen inherited a massive fortune from Hubert Lambert, son of the cement tycoon Leon Lambert. The fortune included 30 million francs and his 11-room mansion in the suburbs of Paris.
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