French far-right presidential hopeful Eric Zemmour pointed a sniper’s rifle at journalists at arms fair on Wednesday, a stunt that reinforced his anti-media populist credentials but that drew condemnation from opponents.
Zemmour, who has emerged as a front-runner for presidential elections next year, turned the weapon on reporters at the Milipol arms fair in Paris, telling them with a smile: “It’s serious now, eh? Get back, move.”
Zemmour, a former journalist who is an admirer of ex-US president Donald Trump, is yet to declare his candidacy for the polls next April but is positioning himself as an anti-elite, anti-immigration champion.
Like Trump, he has long criticised “establishment” media and hopes to build a political coalition of white working-class voters and wealthy conservatives.
French junior interior minister Marlene Schiappa led the criticism, tweeting that Zemmour’s actions were “horrifying” and “not funny.”
“In a democracy, press freedom is not a joke and should not be threatened,” she wrote.
Zemmour responded by calling Schiappa an “imbecile” and accusing her of “trying to whip up a grotesque controversy.”
A recent poll showed Zemmour eclipsing traditional French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of next year’s election, but later losing to centrist President Emmanuel Macron.
Speaking at the weekend in Beziers in southern France, the 63-year-old argued that the justice system, the media and minorities had taken control in France and that their powers needed to be reduced.