German President Christian Wulff has refused to step down as the country’s leader despite the growing chorus urging him to resign over a home loan scandal that embroiled him in a battle with one of Germany’s most popular newspapers.
Despite the political criticism, Germans are not ready to boot Wulff from office. The newspaper Die Welt published an online report today quoting a poll that suggests people are prepared to “give him a second chance.”
The furor began when The Bild wanted to publish a story about Wulff reportedly receiving low interest loan of $649,000 from the wife of a wealthy businessman in 2008 when he was governor of Lower Saxony.
The president allegedly called its chief editor, Kai Diekmann, and left a threatening message. The menacing message quickly became news.
As the outrage grew, Wulff took to the air waves this week. In an interview on German TV, more than 11 million viewers tuned in to hear Wulff admit the voice mail was a serious mistake, but claimed it was done to delay the publication until he returned from a trip overseas and not to stop its publication.
This mea culpa was not good enough for Diekman. He responded by saying “we noted with surprise your statement on television that your call to my mailbox was not about stopping the report about your home loan, but about delaying it for a day.”
Wulff dismissed any suggestion that he would make any further explanations to the newspaper for his behavior.
“The matter was settled between us with that, and that in my view is where it should rest,” he said.
It’s not clear that the matter will rest.
While the presidency is just a ceremonial post, Wulff has made it clear he will not be giving up his post anytime soon, telling the Associated Press ”during the past weeks I had great support from many citizens, from my friends, as well as from my colleagues. I carry my responsibility gladly. I took it on for five years and I would like to show after five years that I was a good and successful president. And I do this with joy and with conviction, knowing that I did not do anything wrong (legally wrong), but I also did not do everything right.”