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Trump encouraged French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour in phone call, campaign says

PARIS – Former U.S. President Donald Trump gave French presidential hopeful Eric Zemmour advice on how to win an election during a 40-minute phone call on Monday, according to the latter’s spokesperson.

“Donald Trump told Eric Zemmour ‘never give in, hold on, be brave, it’s tenacity and endurance that end up paying at the end of a campaign,’” Zemmour’s spokesperson Guillaume Peltier told France 2.

Trump also reportedly warned Zemmour against the influence of mainstream media. “The media will think you are brutal, don’t give in,” he said, Peltier told BFMTV.

A spokesperson for Trump confirmed the call took place but didn’t provide details about the conversation.

Zemmour is a former journalist who, much like Trump, rose to fame on television before moving into politics late in his career. In Trumpian fashion, Zemmour is running a populist campaign, accusing the media of bias and complicity with French political elites. His punchlines and video clips regularly go viral on social media, giving him a visibility that draws the envy of his rivals.

Peltier said the call with Trump had been organized via various channels. The respective teams discussed a possible meeting between the two populist politicians in Florida, but had to abandon plans due to “diary issues,” according to Zemmour’s press officer.

The former U.S. leader and the French candidate discussed Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as well as immigration, security and the economy, according to a statement from Zemmour’s team.

“Eric Zemmour and Donald Trump discussed the reasons behind his success in 2016, and the record number of votes obtained by the outgoing president in 2020, an extra 12 million compared to 2016,” said the press release.

The call is a welcome boost for Zemmour, a controversial candidate whose previous foreign trips to London and Geneva were marred by upsets and cancellations. But it’s bound to ruffle the feathers of Zemmour’s rival, Marine Le Pen, who spectacularly failed to meet Trump or his transition team during a visit to the United States in 2017. Le Pen, who ran as a candidate in the 2017 French presidential election, was photographed sipping coffee in the Starbucks at Trump Tower.

Zemmour’s threat to Le Pen’s campaign has been growing. Several high-profile politicians from Le Pen’s party, the National Rally, have joined Zemmour in recent weeks. POLITICO’s Poll of Polls shows Le Pen at 16 percent, neck and neck with the conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse, and Zemmour at 14 percent. They are battling for a spot in the runoff vote against President Emmanuel Macron.

Meridith McGraw contributed reporting.

This story has been updated.

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