What happened today in France's presidential race

The FN party defended far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen after she made comments about an infamous roundup of Jews at a Paris cycling track during World War II

With less than two weeks before France goes to the polls to elect a new president, the far-right National Front (FN) defended leader Marine Le Pen over comments she made about World War II-era rounding up of Jews.

Here's what happened in the campaign on Monday:

FN backs Le Pen over WWII remarks

The FN party defended Le Pen after the far-right presidential candidate made comments about an infamous roundup of Jews at a Paris cycling track during World War II.

Le Pen's comment on Sunday that "I don't think France is responsible for the Vel d'Hiv", referring to the roundup and deportation of more than 13,000 Jews ordered by Nazi officers in 1942, has threatened to undo her careful strategy of ridding the party of its extremist fringe.

Her father and the FN's founder Jean-Marie Le Pen has been convicted several times for saying the Nazi gas chambers were "a detail of history".

The party's secretary general Nicolas Bay on Monday rejected claims that Le Pen's remarks could be associated with her father's negationism.

She does not dispute "what was shocking and atrocious during this period, she is only saying that France was not to blame," Bay said.

He said the FN's position was the same as that of wartime leader-in-exile Charles de Gaulle, "which is that France was in London. France was not Vichy", the town where the wartime government was based.

De Gaulle, then the leader of the Free French forces, lived in London during World War II while the Vichy regime collaborated with Nazi Germany.

Post-defeat nap for Hamon

Struggling for momentum in the countdown to the election, Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon let slip a remark in a radio interview that suggested he has given up the fight.

Asked about the first thing he would do were he eliminated in the first round of the vote on April 23, Hamon said he would take a "good nap".

Hamon, who is in fifth place in recent polls, immediately caught himself and insisted he would reach the second round, at which point he would be "thinking about the transfer of power with (outgoing Socialist President) Francois Hollande."

- Melenchon into third place -

Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon broke into third place with 18 percent of voter intentions in a Kantar Sofres-Onepoint poll, pushing ahead of the scandal-plagued conservative Francois Fillon, who had 17 percent.

Le Pen remains neck-and-neck with centrist Emmanuel Macron, with both at 24 percent, for the April 23 first round.

Melenchon's spokesman Alexis Corbiere said he felt his candidate, who has gained four points since the start of the year, would continue his surge to make it into the second-round runoff on May 7.