Marine Le Pen has been accused of plagiarizing defeated rival Francois Fillon in a speech she delivered on May 1.
Several sections of French presidential candidate’s speech in Villepinte, north of Paris, appear to repeat almost word-for-word comments Francois Fillon made in an address on April 15.
An official of her National Front party said Marine Le Pen had made a “nod” to Francois Fillon and it showed she was “not sectarian”.
Marine Le Pen faces centrist Emmanuel Macron in the final round on May 7.
The similarity in the speeches was pointed out by the Ridicule TV YouTube channel, initially set up by François Fillon’s supporters to attack Emmanuel Macron before the first round of voting that saw Fillon eliminated from the contest.
Ridicule TV said the far right presidential candidate had plagiarized Francois Fillon’s speech “word for word” and set the two speeches side by side, inviting viewers to make up their own minds.
The videos were also posted on Twitter.
The Liberation newspaper said that what was supposed to have been a key speech for the second phase of voting in the election became instead a focus of ridicule for social media users.
However, Florian Philippot, deputy chairman of the National Front, told Radio Classique the party had owned up to the similarities and that Marine Le Pen’s speech was “nod-and-a-wink” to Francois Fillon’s speech to “launch a real debate” on French identity.
He earlier told AFP that the speech showed “she is not sectarian”.
Marine Le Pen’s campaign manager, David Rachline, also played down the accusations of plagiarism, saying the speech was a form of tribute to Francois Fillon, which “was appreciated” by his supporters.
Francois Fillon was a leading candidate for the presidency, representing the establishment conservative Republicans, but his campaign foundered after a funding scandal.
Recent opinion polls suggest Emmanuel Macron is heading for victory on May 7, carrying around 60% of the vote.
In a speech on May 1 he said he would fight “until the last second” against Marine Le Pen’s ideas “of what constitutes democracy”.