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Scholz gets heat for answer at press conference

June 29, 2022

The German chancellor was accused of being disrespectful and arrogant after he snubbed a Deutsche Welle journalist who asked about security guarantees for Ukraine. The government has rejected the criticism.

Olaf Scholz speaks at a press conference at the end of the G7 summit
Olaf Scholz was hosting the Group of Seven summit at Schloss Elmau in southern GermanyImage: Leonhard Foeger/REUTERS

The German government has defended Chancellor Olaf Scholz after he faced widespread criticism for bluntly dismissing a journalist's question at the end of the Group of Seven summit in Bavaria.

Veteran Deutsche Welle journalist Rosalia Romaniec had asked the chancellor during the event's final press conference on Tuesday whether he ''could elaborate'' on the security guarantees for Ukraine that G7 leaders had discussed.

''Yes, I could,'' Scholz replied. After a smile and a short pause, he added: ''That's it.''

What has the reaction been?

The chancellor's curt reply was widely condemned on social media as an arrogant snub of what had been a serious question about a  key issue on the summit agenda.

Scholz's spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann on Wednesday rejected the suggestion that Scholz had been arrogant, saying he had already responded at length to a similar question about security guarantees for Ukraine. Asked whether the chancellor planned to apologize, she said that he ''is not of the opinion that an apology would be necessary.''

Hermann Gröhe, a lawmaker from the opposition Christian Democrats, said on Twitter that it was a "completely inappropriate way of handling a journalist's question."

Reporter Markus Decker from the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland tweeted: "Treating a journalist who asks a perfectly legitimate question in a friendly tone so arrogantly — you just don't do that. Neither as a person nor as chancellor."

Markus Grill, a journalist at German public broadcasters NDR/WDR, said it was "hard to understand what Chancellor Scholz was thinking when he gave this answer."

DW journalist surprised by Scholz's reply

For her part, Romaniec said she was surprised by both Scholz's initial response to her question and the reaction it triggered.

"It wasn't the first press conference at which the chancellor answered rather curtly — as a journalist you always have to expect that with sensitive topics," she said. "But I was surprised that he did so at such a prominent press conference with a global audience."

"I think, possibly, it says a lot about Chancellor Olaf Scholz's sense of humor. I assume it doesn't have anything to do with his attitude toward the press in general. One can choose not to answer a question, but the question is how one does so. And I think that humor and irony work in smaller groups, and less so with millions of viewers," Romaniec said.

She said the amount of interest Scholz's comments generated was "certainly due to the seriousness of the situation in Ukraine," and the fact that "many would like to see Germany take a very clear position."

"The moment was definitely important because many Ukrainians would like to know what kind of support they can expect from Germany," Romaniec said. "And if the chancellor remains vague about it, then it’s our job as journalists to ask for details. Especially at important press conferences like this."

Edited by: Sean Sinico