It was neither his incendiary rhetoric nor xenophobic views. No, Jean-Marie Le Pen claims it was one unflattering selfie that cost his party the elections in France.
The French far-right politician — who is notorious for being homophobic and anti-Semitic — is suing Brahim Zaibat, a professional dancer, who stealthily took a photo with Le Pen on a plane in which the 87-year-old can be seen snoozing with his mouth open.
After clicking the selfie, Zaibat, an ex-boyfriend of Madonna, shared the photo on social media on Dec. 12, a day before the second round of French regional elections, urging his followers to vote against the National Front, an extreme-right political party founded by Le Pen.
“Let’s all vote tomorrow to give them a knock-out blow. To preserve our fraternal France,” read the text posted by the dancer, which raked in tens of thousands of likes, views and shares.
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The anti-immigration National Front, now headed by Jean-Marie’s daughter Marine, won the first round of regional elections in December, leading in six of France's 13 newly drawn regions. However, the party failed to win a single region in the second round.
While experts cited tactical left voting as well as the “avalanche of 3.5 million previous non-voters” as the main reasons for the painful defeat, Le Pen believes it was Zaibat’s selfie that caused the heavy damage.
The veteran politician says the photo “harmed his image and was instrumental in the defeat of the party led by Marine,” according to French magazine Public. He is claiming €50,000 (nearly $55,000) in damages from the dancer and a written apology on social media.
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The first hearing of Le Pen’s lawsuit will take place on Jan. 22. Zaibat has not yet publicly commented on the issue.