Marine Le Pen stepped down as leader of the National Front this week to focus on her campaign for French president. On Friday, the man tapped to replace her also stepped down—after he was accused of agreeing, or at least sympathizing, with Holocaust deniers, Reuters reports. According to the Telegraph, Jean-Francois Jalkh is said to have praised the research of a Holocaust denier as "well-worked" and "rigorous" in a 2000 interview published in 2005. There are also reports he attended a rally held by supporters of a Nazi collaborator in 1991. Jalkh, who denies being a Holocaust denier but maintains it would have been "impossible" for the Nazis to use Zyklon B in the gas chambers, plans to file a legal complaint over the accusations, France 24 reports.
The sudden attention on Jalkh could hurt Le Pen just over a week out from the second and final round of voting in the French presidential election. Recent polling shows her well behind centrist Emmanuel Macron, who visited the site of one of the worst Nazi atrocities in France on Friday. Le Pen has been trying to make the National Front seem less racist, anti-semitic, and xenophobic than it historically has been—even going so far as to kick her father out of the party he founded after he called the gas chambers a "detail" of history. On Friday, Le Pen said she "abhors" the theories of Holocaust deniers and there is no one in the National Front leadership "who defends this sort of thesis." (Read more Marine Le Pen stories.)