Brüderle was enthusiastically introduced at a regional FDP New Year’s reception in Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, on Sunday, news magazine Focus reported. “We’d like to introduce our friend Rainer Brüderle, who we stand behind,” said NRW party leader Christian Lindner at the event, before the 67-year-old candidate took to the stage to gales of applause.
Brüderle came under pressure this week after a Stern magazine reporter accused him of making inappropriate, sexist remarks to her at an event last year.
The reporter, 29-year-old Laura Himmelreich, wrote that Brüderle leered at her breasts and told her, “You could also fill out a dirndl,” during an informal chat at a hotel bar after a party congress in 2012.
But the report sparked several editorials and an extensive Twitter storm about sexism in German society.
Brüderle has refused to comment on Himmelreich’s accusation, and the FDP has stuck by its candidate, and turned the accusations on the media. Former FDP leader and current Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, “Whenever a Free Democrat takes over at the top, they get no mercy from certain editor’s offices.” He added that “distorted images” of people should not be reported to the public as fact.
But a new survey by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper found that 90 percent of Germans think that Brüderle should apologize to Himmelreich, if her accusations are true.
As many as 45 percent of the 500 people asked also said that Brüderle should resign his post as FDP parliamentary faction leader in the Bundestag.