(JTA) — President Donald Trump said the attack that killed a police officer in Paris would “probably help” French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen since she is “strongest on borders.”
Trump told The Associated Press on Friday that he was not explicitly endorsing Le Pen, a member of the conservative National Front party, but that he believed the previous day’s attack would likely boost support for her. The Islamic State took responsibility for the attack, in which a gunman killed the officer and wounded two others.
“She’s the strongest on borders and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” Trump said. “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”
Earlier Friday, the president wrote on Twitter that the attack “will have a big effect” on the election, which has its first round of voting on Sunday.
Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017
Also Friday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the president did not have a preference for a candidate in the election.
As of Friday, Le Pen was only 2 percentage points behind the front-runner, Emmanuel Macron, a centrist candidate and former banker at the prestigious Rothschild investment house, according to Paris Match. The top two vote-getters are expected to proceed to a second ballot in May.
Many French Jews are deeply worried about the rise in the polls of Le Pen and the National Front, which advocates pulling out of the European Union, stopping immigration from Muslim countries and imposing limitations on religious freedoms, as well as harsh punishments for violence and incitement.
Le Pen has made efforts to distance her party’s image from the open racism of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who previously led the party and whom she kicked out in 2015 following his latest conviction for inciting racial hatred against Jews.
However, earlier this month she drew fire from Israel after saying that “France is not responsible” for the deportation of thousands of Jews to death camps in 1942. She had been asked about the roundup and deportation of 13,152 from the Vel d’Hiv stadium in Paris on July 16-17, 1942.
She added: “I think generally, and in very general terms indeed, if anyone is responsible, then it is those in power at the time, not France as such. It wasn’t France.”