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Chancellor candidate Laschet admits to plagiarism 'mistakes'

July 30, 2021

Armin Laschet, the favorite to replace Angela Merkel after federal elections in September, is again apologizing for missteps. Last week it was for his handling of major floods, now it's for plagiarism.

Armin Laschet holding his book 'Die Austeiger-Republik' in 2009
Armin Laschet says he has ordered a review of the book he published in 2009Image: Sepp Spiegl/imago images

Premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Armin Laschet, who hopes to succeed party ally Angela Merkel as the next chancellor of Germany this fall, has been forced to apologize for plagiarizing another author's work.

Laschet made the apology on Friday, saying that his 2009 book "Die Aufstiegsrepublik" (The Upwardly Mobile Republic), written when he was NRW's integration minister, "clearly contains mistakes that I am responsible for."

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) candidate went on to say, "I would like to expressly apologize, because care in composing texts and the observation of copyrights are for me, among other things, a question of respect toward other authors."

Laschet also promised that he had arranged for, "an immediate audit of the book."

How did Laschet's plagiarism go public?

The issue came to the fore late Thursday, when plagiarism expert Martin Heidingsfelder tweeted a comparison of two text passages, one from Laschet's book and another from Karsten Weitzenegger, a sustainable development adviser. 

Heidingsfelder says he sent a detailed questionnaire to Laschet on Thursday afternoon and by Friday had received answers to many of his queries. Heidingsfelder said he saw no need to further scour Laschet's book after the politician promised a thorough exam of it himself.

For his part, Karsten Weitzenegger published a number of tweets addressing the issue, first criticizing the candidate, saying "Laschet used to pay attention to science, but now only engages in populist immigration policies."

Weitzenegger says he would be happy if Laschet would actually act on the immigration ideas that he plagiarized.

Plagiarism scandals common among German politicians

Over the years, a number of German politicians have been forced to admit to similar practices either in writing commercial books or academic dissertations. Many have had to forfeit academic titles and some have even stepped down from office as a result.

Most recently, Green Party chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock had to admit to using text in a book from sources she did not cite — neither in her text, nor in footnotes.

Laschet, an unpopular favorite

Though Laschet is widely considered the odds-on-favorite to beat his Green Party and Social Democratic challengers to replace Merkel — who is not running for a fifth term in office — when German voters head to the polls on September 26, his personal approval ratings have continued to wane.

Friday's apology was Laschet's second in as many weeks.

German chancellor candidate Armin Laschet laughing in Erftstadt
Not much to laugh about this week as Laschet is forced to apologize again for missteps Image: Marius Becker/dpa/picture alliance

Last week, the chancellory hopeful was seen cracking jokes and laughing boisterously as he stood behind German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was delivering somber remarks to flood victims in NRW.

Laschet apologized for his inappropriate behavior after the video went viral on social media and was picked up by German and international media outlets.

Armin Laschet: Who is the man leading Angela Merkel's party into Germany's general election?

js/nm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)