“I have requested that an internal investigation be conducted as soon as possible,” said Accoyer, who added that he had summoned the communications officer “with punitive measures in mind”.
Sunday’s announcement came amid controversy over a cartoon image of centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron that was tweeted by the Les Républicains Party (LR) on Friday.
The drawing showed Macron with a hooked nose, donning a suit and tie with a top hat, with a sickle and a cigar in hand. Macron is surrounded by photographs of his prominent supporters, while the caption reads, “the truth about Macron’s nebulous connections”.
The image evokes 1930s anti-Semitic propaganda, according to historian Nicolas Lebourg, who spoke with French centrist daily Le Monde. “It plays on the same strong iconography,” he explains.
“Here we see the same representation of a Judeo-capitalist conspiracy,” he said. “It’s outrageous.”
He added that one must be familiar with the propaganda and the iconography of the 1930s in order to fully grasp the significance of the tweet.
However, he said that the LR party overall “can’t be accused of being an anti-Semitic party.”
The day after the image was posted – and subsequently deleted – LR presidential candidate François Fillon condemned the “unacceptable cartoon”.
“Politics is harsh, but it must be dignified,” he said. The candidate added that “cartoons referencing anti-Semitic propaganda” send a message that is “completely contrary to our values”.
Accoyer echoed Fillon in his Sunday statement. “More than ever, our movement, led by François Fillon, embraces republican and Gaullist values,” he wrote. “These values are the basis of our ideals and our political actions.”
Outcry on social media pressured the LR to take the original image down a few hours after it was posted on Friday. It was then replaced by a new image, accompanied with the caption “nouvelle version”, or “new version”.
The “new version” features a photograph of Macron instead of a cartoon, but maintains the photos of his supporters and the original caption, ““the truth about Macron’s nebulous connections”.
Twitter users created the hashtag #NouvelleVersion to condemn the LR’s original post and its subsequent attempt to cover it up. Some posted images of 1930s anti-Semitic propaganda as comparison.
LR leaders told Le Monde that it had “no intention of making a questionable reference”.
“Faced with this controversy, we preferred to take it down so as to avoid any misinterpretations,” the party said.