VIENNA Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) leader distanced himself on Saturday from comments made by his co-lead candidate for EU parliament elections which have been condemned as racist, and said he would have words with him on Monday.
Andreas Moelzer has apologized for saying the European Union was in danger of becoming a "conglomerate of negroes" and denied being the author of an article about Austrian soccer star David Alaba which was criticized as racist.
"Andreas Moelzer is not the party's chief ideologue," Heinz-Christian Strache told ORF radio on Saturday. "There will be a personal talk between me and Andreas Moelzer and of course we will have to evaluate and judge the many accusations."
Asked whether Moelzer should resign, he said he did not want to preempt a meeting of the party leadership on Wednesday, at which the matter would be discussed.
Moelzer's comments have led to widespread calls for his resignation, and threaten the broad appeal the party is building ahead of the May 22 elections among eurosceptic voters who do not identify themselves as right-wing.
The veteran European parliament member has also defended his comparison of the European Union to Nazi Germany's Third Reich, which he said looked liberal in comparison to the European bloc.
The affair has attracted criticism from other European populist and nationalist parties with whom the FPO is building an alliance, as well as condemnation from the leader of Austria's Jewish community.
Strache said: "Everybody in the FPO community has to pay particular attention to the vocabulary he uses."
Strache said the weekly newspaper in which the piece about Alaba was published was not a party organ but condemned the article, which said the "raven-black" Alaba was an example of what today's Viennese had come to.
"Alaba is a great person, an exceptional footballer and an absolutely positive example of integration," Strache said. "This article is insulting and tasteless, whoever wrote it."
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; editing by Andrew Roche)