Former President Christian Wulff has been acquitted of corruption charges. His image will remain that of a man unfit for his office. But still, it was the media who truly failed, writes DW's Marcel Fürstenau.
Christian Wulff's honor has been restored, and he is fully entitled to that restoration. Not out of pity, but because the verdict handed down by the Hanover regional court is a kind of justice: a payback, as it were, for the punishment Wulff has already received outside the court of law.
A year after he stepped down in early 2012, Wulff's corruption trial began. And regardless of his acquittal, he has paid a high price - both professionally and in his private life. Not long after his fall from grace, his second marriage fell apart.
The reasons for Wulff's fall are partly his own fault, and partly not. It is the story of a politician in search of recognition, a man who made his private life much more public than was necessary. He was eager to offer Germany's boulevard press an intimate view into his affairs.
With his much younger, attractive wife, Bettina, at his side, Wulff fully relished the esteem that went with his position. However, this contradicted the reserve that traditionally befits the office: Germany's head of state is often expected to stand above such trifles, to possess even a noble character.
Desire for publicity and poor crisis management
The presidential couple apparently did not possess those particular virtues. Still, Christian Wulff could have kept his office had Lower Saxony not investigated the allegations levelled against him. He could have even perhaps won greater acclaim in Germany.
However, it doesn't make much sense to speculate whether the charges should have been pursued or not - even if all the prosecution could bring to court was an abuse of office charge to the petty tune of 753 euros and 90 cents, which was dismissed by the court.
The key question remains: What role did the media play in the whole affair? It is at the very least legitimate to surmise that the seemingly endless focus on Wulff played a role in bringing about the investigation.
Wulff's crisis management after the media storm broke was, quite simply, dreadful. But it must be noted that he was being hunted down by a journalistic pack that - despite doing their justified and necessary work of presenting the facts - were unable to hide the excitement of being able to take down a celebrity. It's been determined that, in total, the Wulff story ran for an incredible 22 hours on various German talk shows.
At the close of the drama, the defendant was able to present a more positive image. Wulff used his last appearance on stage, with the help of his lawyers, to prove his innocence. And once again, a host of media organizations used the opportunity to produce flashy headlines and capture the Instagram moment that would reveal the essence of the entire affair.
One of those moments, most certainly, came at the opening of the trial when Christian and Bettina met in the hallway outside the courtroom. There it was again: the insatiable desire for sensationalism on the part of many journalists.
At any rate, Christian Wulff can now take solace in his restored honor.