German president tried to block home loan story: report

German President Christian Wulff came under renewed fire Monday over a report he tried to stop a newspaper revealing details of a private home loan that has prompted widespread criticism. Wulff allegedly left an answerphone message for Bild’s chief editor threatening to break all contact with the paper’s publishers if the story appeared, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said. It said the call to the editor-in-chief of the mass circulation Bild daily took place on December 12, a day before the paper broke the story about the EUR 500,000 loan. Bild later Monday published its version of events in a statement on its website confirming Wulff had left a long message on the mobile phone of editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann. Before running the initial article Bild said it had asked Wulff, whose role is largely ceremonial but who acts as a kind of moral compass for the country, for a statement, which he gave, before later withdrawing it. Two days after the story appeared, Wulff again contacted Diekmann by phone apologising for the “tone and content” of his earlier comments, Bild said, adding it had decided not to report the incident. Munich’s Suddeutsche Zeitung daily, one of the first to write about the affair, wrote in Tuesday’s edition that the president had also called Mathias Dopfner, president of Bild’s publishing house Axel Springer AG, who told him that the newspaper’s editorial staff were independent. The Cicero magazine wrote later that Wulff had also contacted Springer’s main shareholder Friede Springer, the widow of the house’s founder, but was also rebuffed.



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