The embarrassing mistake came during ARD’s Tagesschau program, long considered to be one of Germany’s most serious news broadcasts.
In a pre-taped story about the opening ceremonies of the World Athletic Championships in Berlin, the German head of state was mistakenly identified as Klaus instead of Horst in an on-screen caption.
Though German presidents have very little formal power in contrast to the chancellor, it is a high-profile position.
The 66-year-old Köhler, who used to run the International Monetary Fund, regularly ranks as the country’s most popular politician. He was also recently re-elected as president in May and the election was widely covered in the German media.
“We completely made a mistake,” said ARD duty editor Ekkehard Launer, who said it was an “especially turbulent time” before the 8 pm broadcast Saturday evening with multiple stories arriving late and requiring additional work.
“In the heat of the moment, the wrong words slipped in,” Launer said. It was not clear Sunday if ARD had formally apologised to Köhler or whether his office had requested an apology.