Founder of Racist 'Great Replacement' Theory That Inspires White Supremacists Withdraws From E.U. Elections After Fellow Candidate Prays to Swastika

Renaud Camus Great Replacement theory
French writer close to the far-right Renaud Camus, who developed the racist "great replacement" theory, attends a demonstration called by French association Vigilance Halal on January 17, 2015 in Saint-Martial-le-Vieux, central France. THIERRY ZOCCOLAN/AFP/Getty Images

Renaud Camus, the French philosopher who popularized the racist "great replacement" conspiracy theory, disavowed his candidacy from the European elections after a fellow candidate on his list was pictured praying in front of a swastika.

The offending candidate, 20-year-old philosophy student Lignier Fiorina from Amiens in France, said in a video posted to Twitter that the photo of her praying in front of the Nazi Party symbol was a bad taste joke from when she was 18. Fiorina recently lost an eye while attending the yellow vest protests in Paris.

Camus, 72, wrote on Facebook that he is withdrawing his name from the Clear Line list on which they both appear as candidates because of the scandal. He denies that he is a racist and has sought to distance himself from the extreme right, despite his ideas inspiring it.

The New Zealand shooter, who murdered 51 people in attacks on two mosques, referenced Camus' great replacement theory —that non-white immigrants, particularly Muslims, are replacing whites in majority-white countries—in his manifesto.

In the European Parliament election system, voters choose a party, which presents a list of prospective candidates in hierarchical order. Those at the top of the list are most likely to win a seat depending on how big a share of the vote the party secures.

Top of the Clear Line list, and so likeliest to win a seat in the European Parliament if the list gathers enough votes, is Camus. Technically, with the European elections taking place on Thursday, it is too late for him to pull out from the list. But Camus made his intentions clear, saying he disavows the list even though he cannot legally pull out of it.

"I have just discovered that there is a person on the list who has relatively recent photographs and a video showing her tracing in the sand, on a beach, a swastika, then kneeling before it in an attitude of prayer," Camus wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

"This person, very young, explained to me that it was after a party and a birthday night, that it is a joke of (very) bad taste between students, that these gestures do not correspond to their convictions.

"It's possible. However, I can not take the responsibility of asking the voters to send someone to the European Parliament who is amusing themselves with drawing swastikas in the sand and pretending to pray before them."

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-racism campaign group, described Camus as the "the progenitor of the great replacement doctrine—the racist idea that white Europeans are being replaced by immigrants."

Camus wrote a book in 2012 called The Great Replacement, in which he lays out his theory, that a global elite is conspiring through mass immigration to replace the white race with others. The allegation, which has no basis in fact, has since become a bedrock creed of white nationalist and supremacist movements the world over.

Camus wrote on Facebook that it is not enough for Clear Line candidates to say they are not Nazis or extreme right, which he said critics accuse them, in bad faith, of being. He questioned why "defending [my] country from an invasion" of migrants and its "civilization from destruction" would make him far-right.

Camus then claimed the "great replacement" is the "nephew" of Nazism: "They share the same genealogy of horror. We can not be associated with that."

After white supremacists chanted "Jews will not replace us" at the infamous Charlottesville rally in 2017, he told Vox that he did not support Nazis or violence, but that he could understand why white Americans felt angry about being replaced, and that he approved of the sentiment.

"I think the replacement is, in general, a phenomenon. Islam [and Muslim migration] is just the form it takes in Occidental Europe especially, and especially in France probably," he told Vox.

"And it does make the matter worse because it is very strong, it's a very strong culture and civilization with its own language and its own religion.

"But it's not essential to the very idea of replacement. And for instance, in Western Europe, the replacement is just as much by black Africa as it is by Northern Islamic Africans...Of course, if you change populations, you can't expect the same civilization to hold on."