PARIS: A French television news and entertainment show that has long delighted in poking fun at Marine Le Pen and her father have become a battleground in the far-right leader's election contest with President Emmanuel Macron.
After Le Pen said she is excluding reporters from the primetime program “Quotidien” from her press conferences, Macron stepped up his efforts to portray his challenger as a threat to France’s democracy. He said Wednesday that she has shown “the real face of the extreme right."
Both Le Pen and her father, Jean-Marie, have long been a favorite target of irreverent coverage by the evening chat, entertainment and news show on channel TMC.
“Quotidien” casts a critical eye on French politics, calling out and teasing politicians for their foibles, inconsistencies, and positions. The weekday show is also a frequent stop for top entertainment stars and has more than three-quarters of a million Twitter followers. Marine Le Pen isn't a fan.
During a news conference on Tuesday, she said she personally decided to deny the show's reporters accreditation as she crisscrosses France and campaigns for the presidency. “There are no journalists at 'Quotidien,'” she asserted.
Macron accused Le Pen of acting like an autocrat. The centrist president and Le Pen face each other in France’s April 24 election runoff.
“When the same person on the same day says, ‘You are a journalist but this monsieur is not, because he says things that displease me,' it’s the start of an authoritarian drift,'" Macron said Wednesday morning.
"The real face of the extreme right is coming back," he added. “It's a face that doesn't respect liberties, the constitutional framework, the independence of the press.”
Macron rarely misses an opportunity to speak to ‘Quotidien’ reporters when they trail him. His government, however, has previously also been widely and heavily criticized for efforts to regulate visual coverage of the police.
Le Pen said she regards ‘Quotidien’ as an “amusement” show, which is why she singled it out for exclusion. The show is often particularly contemptuous of her father, Jean-Marie, sometimes referring to him as “Papi Facho" — which translates roughly as "Fascist Grandpa.” Jean-Marie Le Pen previously presided over the far-right National Front party, which his daughter inherited and later rebranded as the National Rally to distance herself from his extremism.
“We prefer to accredit journalists rather than entertainment shows,” she said Tuesday. “I decide," she added. “I decided, several years ago, that ‘Quotidien’ is an entertainment show and that, as a consequence, I did not feel obliged to accredit" its reporters.
Also on Wednesday, an array of some of France's biggest sports stars added their voice to the election, urging voters to back Macron in a letter published in Le Parisien newspaper. The more than 50 signatories included NBA stars, Olympic medalists, tennis and rugby players, soccer stars, Tour de France riders and other famous French sports names of past and present.
They noted that the runoff winner will, as France's head of state, be called upon to declare open the Olympic Games when they're held in Paris in 2024.
“We — French sportspeople from all backgrounds and all disciplines — cannot imagine that this historic moment will bear the seal of an extreme-right presidency,” they wrote.