Campaign aides of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate for the French presidency, have brushed off the accusations of plagiarism levelled against her. Le Pen came under fire after footage of a speech emerged showing similarities between her words and those of François Fillon.
Fillon, the conservative candidate, was eliminated from the presidential race in the first round.
A video posted by a French online channel ‘RidiculeTV’ (below) shows Fillon making a speech on April 15, and Le Pen making hers on May 1.
The passages Le Pen appears to have plagiarised mention the geography of France’s borders, and the French language, before quoting Georges Clemenceau, France’s prime minister during World War One.
But the newspaper Libération notes [in French] that the similarities do not stop there, as “other passages of Marine Le Pen’s speech seem to be inspired, to say the least, by that of François Fillon”.
Though Le Pen herself is yet to comment on the claims of plagiarism, the National Front deputy leader this morning told reporters that the party “completely owned up” to similarities between the speeches. However, Florian Philippot called the resemblance a “nod-and-a-wink” to their rival’s earlier words, rather than a copy.
Le Pen’s campaign manager David Rachline described the speech as a form of tribute to the leader of the Republicains party. He said the words were “appreciated, including by all of Mr Fillon’s supporters”.
The incident is not the first time a political actor has been accused of stealing a rival’s words in recent times.
In July 2016, as Donald Trump secured his place as the Republican candidate in the US presidential election, his wife Melania was accused of plagiarising the then-First Lady, Michelle Obama.
Not only was Trump’s speech markedly similar to Obama’s, it was delivered at the parallel event – the party’s National Convention, where presidential candidates are officially selected.
An aide on the Trump campaign later apologised, saying the mistake was hers, not Melania’s, as she “included some of the phrasing in the draft”, but “did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches”.
But the Trump campaign weathered that storm and went on to win the race for the White House.
Whether Le Pen can do the same in the race for the Elysée Palace remains to be seen, though if she is to do so, she will have to overcome polls that currently show centrist Emmanuel Macron leading the race.