A French minister has criticised conservative writer and pundit Eric Zemmour, a leading presidential hopeful, for jokingly pointing a rifle at journalists at a trade show on Wednesday.
Minister Delegate for Citizenship Marlène Schiappa slammed Mr Zemmour, saying on Twitter: “Aiming at journalists with a weapon and telling them to ‘back off!’ is not funny. It is horrifying.”
“Especially after having seriously said that he wanted to ‘reduce the power of the media.’ In a democracy, press freedom is no joke and should never be threatened,” Ms Schiappa added.
Schiappa made the comments in response to a video of Zemmour attending the Milipol Paris 2021 trade show, in which he is seen handling a rifle at the stand of the company PGM and briefly pointing it towards journalists while saying: “You’re not laughing anymore, eh… Back off!”
En visite au salon Milipol, Éric Zemmour pose avec le sniper utilisé par le Raid. « Ça rigole plus là hein…Reculez ! », dit-il à la presse pic.twitter.com/oXKsGlZ4qG
— Lucas Burel (@L_heguiaphal) October 20, 2021
Zemmour later reacted to Ms Schiappa’s comments, calling her a “fool” and stating that she was both “grotesque” and “ridiculous”, according to magazine Le Point. “When I am attacked, I hit three times harder. Let them all be warned,” he added.
Others, such as the newspaper the Daily Mail, have pointed out that Zemmour also violated basic firearms safety, in that all firearms should be treated as if they are loaded at all times and the barrel should be pointed in a safe direction unless the intention is to fire.
Mr Zemmour, who has become a major challenger in recent polls, often placing second behind President Emmanuel Macron and ahead of populist National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, has been compared by some to former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Part of the Trump comparison has been Zemmour’s relationship with the media in France, who while they may not like him, according to one reporter who spoke to Politico, nevertheless give him considerable coverage compared to left-wing candidates.
Despite current support in the polls, Zemmour has yet to officially declare his candidacy for the French presidency. But he has shown signs of his intention to run, including giving up a spot on a television chat programme, which would represent a conflict under French law if he officially declared himself in the race.
Shock Poll Puts Conservative Writer Ahead of Le Pen in Presidential Race https://t.co/chJucemICr
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 8, 2021
Along with his relationship with the media, Zemmour is known for his tough stance on immigration and Islamisation, saying in 2019: “In France, as in all Europe, all our problems are aggravated by immigration — schools, housing, unemployment, social deficits, public order, prisons — but all our problems are also aggravated by Islam. It’s double punishment.”
The remarks, which were made at a conservative conference, led Zemmour to be placed under investigation for inciting discrimination.