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Did anyone fake the 'Stinkefinger'?

March 19, 2015

A satirical TV host seems to have doubly duped German media. On Sunday, public television aired an allegedly doctored image of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis giving Germans the "Stinkefinger."

ARD: Günther Jauch
Image: I&U TV Produktion GmbH & Co. KG/dpa

The question of the Varoufakis "Stinkefinger" (right in photo) has just gotten more complicated. On Thursday, ZDF announced that the satirical news host Jan Böhmermann had faked a video that swiftly went viral overnight on Wednesday.

In it, Böhmermann claimed that his "Neo Magazin Royale" had manipulated a 2-year-old video that allegedly showed Yanis Varoufakis (left in photo) waving the "Stinkefinger" at Germans. The video included footage of the show's research team "doctoring" a speech Varoufakis had given in 2013 in Croatia, but ZDF said in a statement on Thursday that it was only seeking to show - satirically - how easily the footage could have been doctored.

"'Neo Magazin Royale' is a satirical program," ZDF said in a press release. "The editorial team satirically intensified the public debate about the Varoufakis video following the Jauch talkshow. To this end, Jan Böhmermann and his team very demonstrably displayed the possibilities of video manipulation."

The initial Varoufakis video aired to 5.5 million viewers during the Greek finance minister's appearance Sunday on the public broadcaster ARD during an interview with Günther Jauch (center in photo).

In the video, shot in Zagreb in 2013, Varoufakis said he would have preferred for Greece's regime in 2010 to "stick the finger to Germany," which has become a symbol of the austerity imposed on the country from abroad. Tensions have increased between the two nations since January, when Varoufakis and the Syriza government headed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took office.

'It is unacceptable'

The appearance by Varoufakis at the 2013 Subversive Festival came long before his path to becoming Greece's finance minister began to take shape. On Jauch's show on Sunday, Varoufakis was forced to defend himself over and over to the host, who failed to mention the video's context and seemed to suggest that "the finger" was being shown to German loans given to Greece, not German policies for Greece to adopt.

"It is unacceptable that a member of a government would so lie on German television," Volker Kauder, the Bundestag whip for the Christian Democrats-Christian Social Union, said on Tuesday.

The Stinkefinger has some precedent in German media and politics. In the 2013 Bundestag campaign, the Süddeutsche Zeitung magazine ran a cover shot of Social Democrat chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück's longest digit, part of the regular pictorial interview series "Say Nothing Just Now."

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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