Washington Post article: "Pray for Donald Trump to become president again": Alleged statement by Springer boss Döpfner causes confusion

"Shall we all sit down for an hour on the morning of November 3rd and pray for Donald Trump to become President of the United States again?" These words presumably came from an email from Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer Verlag, which he is said to have sent to "his closest executives" in October 2020, shortly before the presidential elections.

Washington Post article: "Pray for Donald Trump to become president again": Alleged statement by Springer boss Döpfner causes confusion

"Shall we all sit down for an hour on the morning of November 3rd and pray for Donald Trump to become President of the United States again?" These words presumably came from an email from Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer Verlag, which he is said to have sent to "his closest executives" in October 2020, shortly before the presidential elections. According to the "Washington Post", which reported on Tuesday, the letter is available. The press department of Axel Springer and Döpfner themselves have not yet responded to an inquiry from the star.

The 59-year-old media manager, as head of the Springer Group, which in Germany includes the "Bild" and the "Welt", also influences US journalism. In 2021, the publisher took over the well-known daily newspaper "Politico".

In the report, the "Washington Post" takes a close look at the German media manager's plans for US journalism. "We want to be the leading digital publisher in the democracies of the world," he explained in an interview with the newspaper in Berlin. Döpfner is "concerned that the American press is too polarized". In his opinion, well-known newspapers such as the "New York Times" or the "Washington Post" drifted too far to the left of the political spectrum, whereas conservative media during Trump's presidency presented "alternative facts". "We want to prove that impartiality is actually the more successful positioning," Döpfner said.

The letter in question from Döpfner is all the more confusing. In it he refers to what he believes to be "the most important issues of the last ten years". This includes:

"Five right out of six options," Döpfner is said to have closed his ranking. In reference to the previous statement on whether one should not pray for Trump's re-election, he continues: "No American government has done more in the last 50 years".

Finally, Döpfner put a message from the AP news agency under his "call", which talks about a likely lawsuit by the US Department of Justice against the online giant Google for alleged abuse of market dominance.

The "Washington Post" confronted Döpfner with his allegedly own words. At first he denied everything: "That is wrong in itself," he said. "It doesn't exist. It has never been sent and has never been considered." When the journalists showed the Springer boss a printout of the email, he backtracked slightly. It is possible that he sent the email "as an ironic, provocative statement among people who hate Donald Trump". He would like to do that once. "That's me," he said. "That could be." But he insists he has never been a supporter of Trump.

As the media magazine "Meedia" reported on Wednesday, Döpfner has now confirmed that he has sent the email. However, their content should be understood ironically. Springer, in turn, refers to the appendix of the letter - the CEO only wanted to express that with Trump's re-election there were good chances of breaking Google's market power. After all, tech giants like Google made it difficult for media groups to market their own content.

"The representation or interpretation that it was a kind of circular mail to the employees in the company is wrong. The request for 'collective prayer' was of course a joke. At Axel Springer, there is no collective prayer," quoted "Meedia" a company spokeswoman . The mail went to only four people. However, the ranking of the "most important issues of the last ten years" was not a joke, "it was Mathias Döpfner's personal view".

The group also finds an explanation for the fact that Döpfner initially denied to the Washington Post that he was the author of the mail. Döpfner initially misunderstood the question: he believed the question referred to whether he had specifically called in the email to support Trump's re-election. He immediately denied this. When the journalists showed him the printout of the email, "he immediately confirmed and explained it," said the spokeswoman.

Döpfner last made headlines in October last year. At that time, the "New York Times" published quotes from short message chats between Springer boss and author Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre. The then "Bild" editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt, according to Döpfner, was "really the last and only journalist in Germany who still bravely rebelled against [the] new GDR authoritarian state. Almost everyone else has become propaganda assistants."

At that time, too, Döpfner initially pointed out irony and exaggerations in private dialogues, but later apologized for the news.

Source: "Washington Post"; "Media"

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