Macron rival Éric Zemmour photographed flipping finger at member of the public

Controversy is not alien to the French journalist turned politician, who in recent days has battled challenges coming from all directions. The latest was an unpleasant two-day trip to southern France that ended with Mr Zemmour making a typically offensive gesture at a member of the public. He said it “happened on its own”.

An Agence France Presse photographer on Saturday captured Mr Zemmour, 63, flipping his middle finger from the back of a car in Marseille.

He did it in response to a woman who approached the vehicle and stuck up hers. While making the gesture, he said: “And very deeply.”

His press officer, Olivier Ubéda, said of the gaffe: “Éric Zemmour does not deny it. It’s instinctive.

“You’ll have to get used to it with him.”

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He was on a promotional tour for his latest book, France Has Not Said Its Last Word, but had planned in time to meet with locals and do some glad-handing at a market in what is viewed as an unofficial pre-election campaign.

The visit, however, did not turn out to be welcome by Marseillais, with hundreds of far-left protesters showing their discontent towards Mr Zemmour and police eventually escorting him through the train station as demonstrators demanded he leave their city.

The rude exchange between him and the woman sparked strong opinions among opponents.

Sharing the picture on Twitter, Bruno Questel, from President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche! party, said: “This bad joke should stop; quick.”

Mr Zemmour narrowly follows on 14 percent.

But an Elabe poll saw him lose about two points to between 12 and 15 percent from two weeks ago while Le Pen rose about two to four points to between 20 and 22 percent.

France’s la Libération newspaper speculated the Marseille incident could mark the end of Mr Zemmour’s political rise.

It came days before his first rally — the official announcement of his presidential candidacy for the 2022 election — is expected in Paris on December 5.

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