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Did Jesse Jackson dine with far-right leader Le Pen in Paris?

Philippe Wojazer, AFP | The Reverend Jesse Jackson attends a ceremony in central Paris to mark the anniversary of the abolition of slavery on May 10, 2016

French far-right figurehead Jean-Marie Le Pen on Tuesday appeared to flaunt an unlikely meeting with the Rev. Jesse Jackson during the US civil right leader’s recent trip to Paris.

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Le Pen, the firebrand co-founder of the anti-immigration National Front party, posted pictures of himself with Jackson at a dinner party and of a signed note in which Jackson encourages him to “Keep Hope Alive” on Twitter.

“May 8, 2016 Jean Marie (and) Jany Le Pen, Keep Hope Alive, Continue, Jesse Jackson” the note given to the controversial politician and his wife says.

Le Pen, a European MP, is infamous in France and abroad for his recurring xenophobic and anti-Semitic remarks. He shocked the political establishment in 2002 by finishing second in France’s presidential elections.

Last month Le Pen was fined €30,000 for repeating past claims that Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of World War II and an additional €5,000 for hate speech directed at Roma people, in what were only his latest run-ins with the law.

Jackson quickly rebuffed Le Pen on Twitter: “Did not know you were coming to dinner. Never met you before. Do not share your beliefs,”Jackson, who was a close friend of the civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. and a former Democratic presidential hopeful, said.

Le Pen is the father of National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, but the two have quarreled recently over his controversial statements in the press. Le Pen senior was excluded from the party’s executive committee last year.

A spokesman told the British news website Heat Street that Jackson “had no idea who [Le Pen] was or what he stood for”, and that it was not unusual for Jackson to scribble friendly notes to people he encounters during his travels.

Jackson was in Paris to commemorate the “National Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade, Slavery and their Abolition”, which France commemorates every year on May 10.

“Today [the decedents of slaves] are free, but we are not equal,” Jackson said during a ceremony on Tuesday hosted by French President François Hollande in central Paris.

“For the sake of future generations, to make sure history will not repeat itself, because France believed in liberty, equality and fraternity, don’t surrender hope. Humanity is at stake,” Jackson added to joyful applause.

The spokesman told British website Heat Street that Jackson and Le Pen were both guests at a dinner party hosted by “an old friend” of the anti-racism activist.

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