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Marine Le Pen Denies Making White Power Gesture in Selfie



PARIS — The French far-right leader Marine Le Pen denied on Thursday that she had made a white supremacist gesture in a selfie with an Estonian politician and accused the news media of trying to undermine her before elections to the European Parliament this month.

Ms. Le Pen told France Inter radio on Thursday that the gesture, which she made in a picture alongside the far-right Estonian lawmaker Ruuben Kaalep, was used “all the time, everywhere, by everybody” and that other prominent leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France and former President Barack Obama had used it in the past.

“It isn’t a white supremacist gesture, it’s a gesture that means ‘O.K.,’ ” she said.

Ms. Le Pen, leader of the National Gathering party, formerly known as the National Front, had been on a tour of Eastern Europe this week to support like-minded far-right parties ahead of the European Parliament elections. In Estonia, she met with members of the nationalist, anti-immigrant Conservative People’s Party, or EKRE, which recently became part of a coalition government.

This month, two leading EKRE figures — Mart Helme and Martin Helme, his son — shocked commentators when they made the fingers-and-thumb gesture on being sworn in as lawmakers in the Estonian Parliament.

Mr. Kaalep, a leader of EKRE’s youth movement, took a selfie with Ms. Le Pen on Tuesday in which both are making the sign of a circle with the thumb and index finger while holding the other three fingers outstretched.

While the “O.K.” sign is often used innocuously, it has been appropriated by some white supremacists. Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League have linked it to a 2017 online campaign on the anonymous message board 4chan in which users were encouraged to post false claims that the gesture represented the letters “W.P.” for “white power.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the hoax around the sign was so successful that it “became a popular trolling tactic on the part of right-leaning individuals, who would often post photos to social media of themselves posing while making the ‘O.K.’ gesture.”

But the league added that, “By 2019, at least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy.”


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