AfD leader ‘the biggest liar’ on television

Politicians only tell the truth on telly 70 percent of the time, a new study shows. But one young political upstart is particularly prone to telling porkies.

AfD leader 'the biggest liar' on television
AfD's Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA

Turn on your telly in the evening in Deutschland and you’re almost guaranteed to be confronted by a group of late middle-aged people talking very earnestly about very serious things.

Whether it's an episode of Anne Will, Hart aber Fair, or Maybrit Illner, Germans seem to have an insatiable appetite for lengthy discussions on a tiny number of political talking points.

With the same small carousel of faces appearing over and over, the sense of déjà vu can be nauseating.

Sahra Wagenknecht, the telegenic leader of the opposition Left Party, has been sternly reprimanding the government from a red-cushioned sofa for years.

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the kindly face of the Green party, must rarely get home till after midnight.

And recently a new face has been beamed into our living rooms – that of Frauke Petry, the leader of the populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

With the AfD soaring in the polls, and the anti-migrant party's leader always good for a fiery quote, Petry is a ratings no-brainer. 

But with arguments thrown hither and thither without an independent voice calling politicians out when they stray from the facts, the viewer's post-supper brain can be reduced to a well-mushed soup.

But now help is at hand, thanks to a team from the Cologne Journalism School.

Researchers there looked at talk show appearances between December 2015 and March 2016 and rated 351 statements from seven leading politicians for their accuracy.

They found that politicians only told the truth 71 percent of the time. A further 15 percent of the time they made statements which were “largely true”.

But 14 percent of the time they would say things which were categorized as either “largely false” or “false” – meaning one in every seven statements made by a lawmaker was a fib.

But the findings went further, showing that some politicians were much more likely to spin a yarn than others.

Petry appeared in three of the talk shows and lied or half-lied almost a third of the time.

The next biggest fibber was Markus Söder, the ambitious young finance minister of Bavaria. He told a porky or partial porky 22 percent of the time.

And, quite contrary to opposition claims that the government are a bunch of slippery Ne'er-Do-Wells, the leading government figures put under the microscope were most likely to stick to the facts.

Armin Laschet, deputy leader of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), was found to “only” fib or partially fib 6.5 percent of the time.

Slightly more Pinocchio-esque, but still better than the average politician, was Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the junior partner in the coalition government. He had a lying quota of 9.1 percent.

The report's authors also note that some political parties were more willing to provide an explanation for their leaders' tall tales when asked about them than others.

While the CDU and Greens delivered detailed explanations to 20 untrue statements which the Cologne team brought to their attention, the AfD replied that “due to scheduling pressures placed on Dr. Petry, she is unable to provide detailed answers to the points brought to attention here.”

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EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.