The Latest: French far-right member suspended

March 11, 2018
National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, right, and former White House strategist Steve Bannon hold a press conference at the party congress in the northern French city of Lille, Saturday, March 10, 2018. Steve Bannon has given a big boost to French far right leader Marine Le Pen, telling a cheering crowd at a congress of her National Front party that "history is on our side." (AP Photo)

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the party congress of France’s far right National Front (all times local):

9:40 p.m.

A young man appointed by far-right leader Marine Le Pen as an “ambassador” to the National Front congress has been temporarily suspended during an investigation of racist remarks he allegedly made to a black man.

Davy Rodriguez tweeted on Sunday that he “formally denies racist remarks ascribed to me.”

The incident became public on the final day of a two-day congress aimed at re-building the anti-immigration party. Le Pen has worked to erase the party’s racism and anti-Semitic stigma.

Party spokesman Sebastien Chenu said Sunday on CNews that Rodriguez was being suspended “so light can be shed and he gives us his explanation.”

A video on social networks showed an agitated man identified as Rodriguez being calmed. In another video, a black man recounts racial insults he said were proffered.


4:40 p.m.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has proposed changing the name of the National Front party co-founded by her father to National Rally.

Her renaming proposal culminated Le Pen’s closing speech at the party’s two-day congress in Lille, the capital of the National Front’s northern heartland.

Le Pen said the name the party has had since its 1972 founding is linked to a “glorious” past, but serves as a psychological barrier for potential new members and voters.

The new name must be approved by members in a mail vote.

It is part of a broader makeover Le Pen hopes will help boost the party to power. Le Pen has worked since taking over in 2011 to remove the stigma of racism and anti-Semitism attached to the National Front.


11:10 a.m.

France’s far-right National Front party has definitively severed its ties to firebrand founder Jean-Marie Le Pen as it tries to revive its fortunes.

The party also re-elected his daughter, Marine Le Pen, to a new term as president at party congress where she was its only candidate for the post. A new 100-member governing council was also named.

The party tweeted Sunday that more than 79 percent of members who participated in a vote approved new party statutes that included abolishing Jean-Marie Le Pen’s position of party president for life.

The party expelled him in 2015 over anti-Semitic remarks but he kept the honorary position. Sunday’s vote is a crushing blow for the 89-year-old, who founded the party in 1972 and was runner-up in the 2002 French presidential election.