Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt says she was just having a “bit of fun” when she snapped the now famous selfie alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama during the middle of the memorial for former South African leader Nelson Mandela.
The Danish PM told the Danish daily Berlingske that taking the impromptu group photo of the three world leaders while at the memorial was not “inappropriate.”
“There were lots of pictures taken that day, and I just thought it was a bit of fun. Maybe it also shows that when we meet heads of state and government, we too are just people who have fun.”
Thousands of mourners had gathered inside the FNB Stadium that borders Johannesburg Tuesday, joining dozens of heads of state from around the world for the solemn tribute honoring the anti-apartheid leader. But it was the selfie of Cameron, Thorning-Schmidt and Obama that has left a lasting footprint on social media and in the pundit talk-show world.
In a blog posted on Agence France-Presse’s website, the AFP’s photographer who captured the selfie moment said the photo was taken shortly after Obama’s stirring eulogy, and it was Thorning-Schmidt’s smartphone that captured the photo. Immediately after posting, the photo went viral, becoming the topic du jour of talk news and cyber chatter.
But Thorning Schmidt said the gesture was in keeping with the spirit of the event, telling Berlingske, ”There was a sadness, but it was basically a festive event that also celebrated a man who has lived for 95 years and achieved so much in his life. There was dancing on the stands. … And then we took a really fun selfie.”
The White House has not commented on the now famous photo. Earlier this week, Cameron defended the spontaneous move, even employing a bit of humor as he told the British House of Commons, “In my defense, I would say that Nelson Mandela played an extraordinary role in his life and in his death in bringing people together. So of course when a member of the Kinnock family” — Thorning-Schmidt is the daughter-in-law of Neil Kinnock, a Labor rival of Cameron’s — “asked me for a photograph, I thought it was only polite to say yes.”