ONTD Political

President Accused of Threatening Tabloid Newspaper

9:20 pm - 01/03/2012

German President Wulff reportedly sought to prevent tabloid Bild from publishing a damaging article about his private loan arrangements last month, two newspapers reported this week. He even threatened legal action in an angry voicemail, the contents of which have now been confirmed by the paper.

German President Christian Wulff intervened personally to try to stop mass-circulation daily Bild from running a story last month about a private loan that has damaged his credibility and exposed him to criticism, German newspapers reported this week.

Wulff reportedly tried to contact Bild Editor in Chief Kai Diekmann on Dec. 12 by telephone to complain about an article the newspaper was planning to run the next day, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and Süddeutsche Zeitung newspapers reported on Sunday and Monday respectively.

Wulff only reached Diekmann's voice mail and left a message in which he angrily threatened a "final break" in relations with the Springer publishing house, which publishes Bild, Die Welt and other influential German newspapers, the reports said. The papers claim the president said that if Bild wanted to "wage war," he wanted to hold a meeting about it after his return from an official trip. Wulff was touring several Gulf states at the time Bild ran the story.

According to Bild, Wulff threatened to take legal action against the Bild journalists. Wulff apologized in a subsequent telephone call, Süddeutsche Zeitung added.

Voicemail Confirmed by Bild

SPIEGEL ONLINE has also obtained information from sources indicating that Wulff also telephoned with the CEO of Springer, Mathias Döpfner, asking him if he could exert his influence on Diekmann. But the head of the newspaper publishing company, which owns Bild, is said to have tersely told the president that he did not want to interfere on matters concerning the newspaper.

Springer officials would not provide a comment on whether a conversation had taken place between Wulff and Döpfner when contacted by SPIEGEL ONLINE on Monday.

However, later on Monday afternoon, Bild posted a story on its website confirming the contents of the voicemail message left for Deikmann. The paper said it had contacted President Wulff to obtain a statement relating to its coming report on his private house loan. The president provided a statement but then later withdrew it shortly before this issue went to press, Bild said. He then reportedly sought direct contact with Diekmann and left a message on his mobile phone indicating he was "angry" about the reporting being conducted about his home loan and also threatened to take legal action against the Bild journalist responsible. The paper says it didn't report on the message because Wulff contacted Diekmann again two days after the first report was published and offered an apology to the editor in chief for the tone and content of the voicemail.

The actions allegedly taken by Wulff show just how seriously the president took the reporting being conducted into his personal loans. SPIEGEL had also been researching the nature of the personal loans in question for a number of months.

Unimpressed by Wulff's threat, Bild went ahead and published its article on Dec. 13, in which it alleged that Wulff had not given the whole truth in a response to a parliamentary question put to him in February 2010, when he was still governor of the northern state of Lower Saxony, about whether he had business ties with the businessman Egon Geerkens.

'No Collision of Interests Whatsoever'

The report said Wulff's office had declared at the time that there were no business links with Geerkens. According to Bild, however, Wulff and his wife Bettina had received a loan of €500,000 ($660,000) from Geerkens' wife Edith in order to buy a home.

The Bild article caused a pre-Christmas blizzard of media coverage about Wulff's private loan arrangements, prompting Wulff to apologize for not having been completely "straight" in his parliamentary response in 2010.

SPIEGEL revealed last week that Wulff had swapped the Geerkens loan for a loan from state-owned regional bank BW-Bank on preferential terms in 2010, with an interest rate amounting to half the level charged to normal clients.

According to a report in this week's edition of SPIEGEL, BW-Bank had reason to be grateful to Wulff when it granted him the €520,000 loan. As governor of Lower Saxony, Wulff had played an important role in the rescue of sports car maker Porsche, a client of regional bank Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, which owns BW-Bank.

Asked by SPIEGEL if the loan was a form of "thank you" for saving Porsche, Wulff said there "was no collision of interests whatsoever."

Source: Spiegel

I'm too disgusted for words. This man needs to be removed from his post immediately, he's a disgrace to the whole country.

What gets me almost as much as the actual threat is that he LEFT IT AS A VOICEMAIL MESSAGE.
On the phone of a media person.
How fucking STUPID can you be?
(no subject) - Anonymous
lovis 4th-Jan-2012 01:23 pm (UTC)
Ah, he was probably wearing it for Karneval.
fishphile 3rd-Jan-2012 11:38 pm (UTC)
Wow. This was willfully ignorant. Not only does he look like an asshole, but he left little doubt to his guilt on the loans.
mellawe 4th-Jan-2012 12:00 am (UTC)
It feels like having to choose betwen two evils (with Bild and Diekmann being the bigger one)
caketime 4th-Jan-2012 12:11 am (UTC)
I don't even know where to look, to be honest. I mean, what's so bad about getting a better loan? News is slow after Christmas and that's why the Bild has to publish what exactly Wulff does with his bank accounts, like that's anyone's business. He's been doing his job (before this) so w/e

and then it all blows up and he gets silly. O_O;

I also don't think he's a disgrace, um am i missing something here
scolaro 4th-Jan-2012 12:28 pm (UTC)
The problem is that he is required to be honest about where the money for his house came from - he wasn't. It didn't come from a friend with no horse in the race, but from a business man who'd plenty of reasons to help him financially. (The word corruption comes to mind.)

And as the Head of State (of a democracy, at that) to threaten the media in order to keep this story from getting out? That's a disgrace in my book.
That the bank gave him a loan for only half of what regular people pay is merely an additional slap in the face.
sarahbeez 4th-Jan-2012 12:50 am (UTC)
honestly idk enough about federal german politics to comment other than this is all rather damming. between keeping up with US federal stuff, California stuff, and local BW stuff I end up spent.

but i love that the picture chosen is one of him in a dopey costume. is this a fasching thing or?
scolaro 4th-Jan-2012 12:35 pm (UTC)
I think so, but there was no information underneath the photo. It's either Fasching or some medieval festival, I presume. ^^
prehnite 4th-Jan-2012 01:36 am (UTC)
So does he always kinda look like Nigel Thornberry or is it just that particular photo? /useless comment
scolaro 4th-Jan-2012 12:39 pm (UTC)
Heh - naw, he looks rather boring most of the time, like any old politician: proof
omgwtfbbqcandy 4th-Jan-2012 07:28 am (UTC)
Question to all German ontd_pers (or anyone familiar with German politics, I guess):
Say Wulff steps down, who's your choice to take the position?
I just moved back to Germany, so I can follow the story, but that's about it, unfortunately.
endlos_schleife 4th-Jan-2012 10:33 am (UTC)
I don't really care but given how many CDU/FDP affiliated politicians have failed in one way or another in the past year I'd rather not have any one of them again.
scolaro 4th-Jan-2012 12:59 pm (UTC)
Personally, I'd go for Joachim Gauck who was one of the candidates last time - the most popular one. If the German people had direct voting rights, he would be president today. Alas, he isn't affiliated with any political party and lost against Wulff in the end.

The other possibility would be Margot Käßmann, but IMO it's rather unlikely that she'd be elected. For once she's a woman and having two women in the two top positions of the country (the other being Merkel, of course) will not go down well for some of the dinosaurs. Second reason is that there was a drunk driving incident (not accident) in 2010 which she owned up to by stepping down from all her functions. Not sure if her morals would allow her to accept the presidency.

Either way, first Wulff will have to be kicked out, and I have no idea if this is going to happen at all. The sit-it-out strategy is just as popular with German as with US politicians...
lovis 4th-Jan-2012 01:23 pm (UTC)
The Käßmann? Really? Ugh.

Way too much affiliated with religion and the DUI incident is something I can't forgive. Also, I hated how everyone patted her on the back for resigning.
scolaro 4th-Jan-2012 01:31 pm (UTC)
As I said, it's a possibility and for someone affiliated with religion she at least doesn't seem to be a nut.
I also didn't get the impression that she was patted on the back for resigning - people just aren't used to political figures owning up to the mistakes they made.

But as I said, Joachim Gauck would be my preferred choice, and I doubt Käßmann had any chance at all.
mellawe 4th-Jan-2012 04:38 pm (UTC)
we don't really get to choose .It's party politics, Wulff got the job because Merkel wanted to get rid of the competition in her own party. Usually the candidate of the ruling coalition wins the vote while the opposition nominates a woman to show how progressive they are
scolaro 4th-Jan-2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
Sadly, that's accurate.
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