French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour was found guilty of racist hate speech on Monday and was ordered to pay a 10,000 euro ($11,413) fine.
Zemmour’s conviction stems from an interview he gave in September 2020 in which he made disparaging remarks about child migrants, calling them “thieves,” “killers” and “rapists.”
“That’s all they are. We should send them back,” he added.
If the far-right media pundit, well known for his racist and Islamophobic views, does not pay the fine, he could face time in jail.
As France 24 reported, Zemmour skipped the court’s verdict, having skipped his trial altogether in November. His attorney, Olivier Pardo, said he planned to appeal the court’s decision.
In a statement posted on Instagram, Zemmour was unrepentant, calling the charge he was convicted of “difficult to understand.”
He again reiterated his belief that immigrant minors have a “strong propensity for delinquency, even criminality” and claimed that the accusation of racism against him was wrong because immigrants as a whole do not constitute an ethnic group. He added that his conviction was an offense to freedom of expression.
This is not the first time Zemmour has been penalized for hate speech. France 24 noted that Zemmour has two prior convictions for the offense and has been investigated 16 times for similar remarks.
In 2011, he was fined 10,000 euros for saying, “Most drug dealers are Black and Arab.”
This most recent conviction will likely serve as a blow to Zemmour’s presidential ambitions as he struggles to shore up the 500 necessary endorsements he needs from elected officials across France in order to put his name on the presidential ballot.
According to the BBC, recent polling has shown that Zemmour may get around 11 percent of France’s first-round vote. In French presidential elections, if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, then the two most popular candidates go head-to-head in a runoff election.