It seems a bit tragicomic: concern about her public image of all things is now significantly damaging the image of the Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Anne Spiegel. “The blame game could start immediately, we need a wording,” Spiegel, then environment minister in Rhineland-Palatinate, wrote in a text message to her press spokesperson early in the morning after the flood disaster in the Ahr valley. Eight months late, the blame game has now reached the minister.
For the Greens politician, who surprisingly was appointed to the federal cabinet in December, quickly sent text messages are becoming a serious burden. The opposition in Mainz is outraged, the people of the Ahr Valley are hurt. It is said that Spiegel only thought about his public image while people were fighting for their lives.
The process itself, the communication between the minister and the staff, is routine. One of the main tasks of a press spokesman is to strive for a positive image of his minister in public. Consequently, it was also the speaker who contacted Spiegel early in the morning.
[Wenn Sie aktuelle Nachrichten aus Berlin, Deutschland und der Welt live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]
The federal election campaign had already picked up steam on July 15, and the SPD and Union chancellor candidates quickly found themselves in the flood zone in their roles as finance minister and prime minister. The Greens’ chancellor candidate, Annalena Baerbock, arrived a few days later and visited the flood victims with Spiegel. No press, no photographers. Fearing accusations that the Greens would exploit the catastrophe, not even a photo of the visit was published. This is also a type of image cropping.
For politicians, crises are both an opportunity and a danger. Armin Laschet’s laugh in the flooded area was fatal. The scene lasted only a few seconds, but the images remained. People in the flooded areas will also remember Spiegel’s SMS for a long time.
[“Erschüttert und enttäuscht” – Lesen Sie mit Tagesspiegel Plus, was die Menschen im Ahrtal von Spiegels Image-SMS halten.]
The investigative committee in Mainz, in the context of which the Spiegel news has now been made public, is not about the actions of individual politicians. It is about finding responsibility for the catastrophe in which 134 people lost their lives in the Ahr Valley alone. So far, there are many indications that the authorities have collectively misjudged the situation. Above all, the district administrator and civil protection should have warned the local population. Both are ultimately subordinate to the Minister of the Interior.
The Environment Ministry also predicted in a press release just hours before the flood that “extreme flooding” was not expected. Further elucidation is needed as to how this assessment came about. The fact that it is now known that Spiegel asked his staff in this press release to change the gender and change “campsite owners” to “campsite owners” makes Spiegel uncomfortable. It seems to confirm the charge that the Left Greens are missing out on identity politics while losing sight of the bigger picture. Your SMS will be evaluated morally. However, the revelations do not change the question of guilt.