Royal Institution cancels Éric Zemmour room hire for London event

The far-right commentator’s team says the decision is ‘incomprehensible’ and that it is reviewing legal action. It comes as a court case opens against the former TV host on charges of inciting racial hatred

18 November 2021

London’s Royal Institution has cancelled a conference room reservation made by French far-right commentator Éric Zemmour Pic: Willy Barton / Shutterstock

By Emma Morgan

London’s Royal Institution has cancelled a function room reservation made by French far-right polemicist Éric Zemmour, less than 48 hours before he was due to address members of the city’s French community there this week. 

The event – entitled ‘Éric Zemmour in London’ – was billed for tomorrow (Friday, November 19), at the start of a weekend of engagements including an interview with Bloomberg and private meetings organised in the hope of raising funds for his possible candidacy at the presidential elections in 2022. 

Mr Zemmour is still yet to confirm that he will stand at this election, but according to the latest Harris Interactive poll, he could gain 17-18% of the vote, enough to reach the second round.

His growing political influence is partly down to the exposure he enjoyed as the editor of CNews’ Face à l'Info programme. He also maintains a close relationship with billionaire tycoon Vincent Bolloré, who, as the president of media group Vivendi, paved the way for the development of the right-wing news channel from its predecessor I-Télé. 

The Royal Institution appears to have been chosen by Mr Zemmour because of its status as one of the UK’s most prestigious scientific education and research organisations.

One of its rooms was previously hired by the later disgraced Les Républiains 2016 presidential candidate, François Fillon.

‘Major mistake’ or ‘sabotage’

Following the cancellation of Mr Zemmour’s conference room reservation, his team said: “We were simply sent an email, without any justification.”

They added that the decision to cancel the event – to which they claim 300 French expatriates had signed up – was “incomprehensible with regards to commercial law” and a “major mistake” unless the Institution “knowingly wished to sabotage the event.”

French citizens residing overseas retain full voting rights, regardless of how long they have been living abroad, so the estimated 160,000 French people living in the UK could be valuable to Mr Zemmour in an eventual election campaign.

“We have paid the entirety of the bill, looked at the technical details with their team, were talking with them until yesterday evening about how it was going to work, and the reservation contract had been signed two weeks ago,” Mr Zemmour’s representatives continued.

“It’s obviously not for a private conference space to decide if Éric Zemmour has the right to address people or not.”

Éric Zemmour speaking in the Assemblée Nationale in 2011 Pic: Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock

Mr Zemmour’s team also suggested that it may initiate legal proceedings against the Institution: “we are leaving our British lawyer to follow it up with them.”

‘Éric Zemmour in London’ is still set to take place, but its new location has not yet been announced. This is not the first time that Mr Zemmour has struggled to secure a venue for his talks: one event in Vannes (Brittany) planned for October 30 was called off because he could not find an “appropriate room.”

In a statement, the Institution said: “The RI has taken the decision to cancel a private venue hire booking for an event featuring the media commentator and politician Eric Zemmour.”

“The booking was received at short notice and was one of many the RI receives each week. Following a process of due diligence the RI has taken the decision to cancel the venue hire event and therefore Mr Zemmour will not be speaking at the RI.”

A court case against Zemmour 

Yesterday (November 17) also marked the first day in a court case against Mr Zemmour, who is accused of public insult and inciting racial hatred, an offence for which he has already been tried and convicted on several occasions.

Mr Zemmour was not present at court, and said he stood by his remarks that young migrants arriving illegally in France were “thieves and rapists,” assertions which were made during a September 2020 debate on CNews.

During the show, he said that unaccompanied child migrants have “no reason being here: they are thieves, they are killers, they are rapists, that’s all they do, they should be sent back,” comments for which France’s broadcast regulator Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel fined CNews €200,000.

In a statement regarding the charges he is currently facing, Mr Zemmour said: “Today I am being pursued by the judiciary on the basis of freedom-killing laws for having criticised people, who in their own words ‘are there to pillage France’. 

“Illegal immigrants who, for the most part, are neither minors, nor unaccompanied...but often delinquents.”

The prosecution is recommending that Mr Zemmour be fined €10,000 for his comments, and has stated that: “Under the guise of [talking about minors] he targets the [whole] immigrant population,” against whom he appears to harbour “a very strong hatred.”

Mr Zemmour’s lawyer, Olivier Pardo, described the charges were unfounded, adding that: “He’s wanted for ‘racial hate’ but as far as I know an unaccompanied minor is neither a race, nor a nation, nor an ethnicity,” in an interview on RMC radio

He had advised Mr Zemmour not to attend the trial for fear of it becoming a “political arena.”

The court is expected to deliver its verdict on January 17.

Mr Zemmour was convicted of provocation to racial discrimination in 2010, after justifying discrimination against Black and Arab people. 

In 2018, he was also fined for provocation to hate against Muslims, but this decision is pending review by the European Court of Human Rights. 

A 2020 conviction for incitement to racial hatred regarding remarks Mr Zemmour made about Muslims was later overturned, with Paris’ Court of Appeal stating that "none of the statements pursued target all Africans, immigrants or Muslims but only fractions of these groups.”

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