23 April 2004
LONDON – A bizarre outburst by the owner of Britain’s Express newspapers, in which he called all Germans Nazis and insulted the chief executive of the Daily Telegraph with a string of four- letter expletives, drew astonished comment and strong criticism in Friday’s press.
Richard Desmond, who made his fortune through pornographic magazines but has recently sold many of his girlie magazines, addressed Telegraph chief executive Jeremy Deedes in a mock-German accent, gave Nazi salutes and ordered his own executives to sing “Deutschland ueber Alles”, the reports said.
After 10 minutes the Telegraph executives walked out of the top-level executive meeting, which took place Thursday. The companies jointly own a printing works, and the executives meet monthly.
Deedes said the performance was a “grotesque outburst of slander and racism”, attributing Desmond’s antics to a bid for the Telegraph group from Germany’s Axel Springer publishing house.
Desmond was at one point interested in buying the Daily Telegraph and its Sunday sister paper, which are up for sale following a cash scandal involving Conrad Black, the former Telegraph chairman.
Patrick Brooking, the chairman of the British-German Association, said he was “utterly disgusted” by Desmond’s outburst. “It’s undermined a lot of good people have done. It seems like the outburst of someone who is deranged,” he said.
According to the reports, which have not been denied, Desmond, who is Jewish, greeted the Telegraph delegation saying “Guten Morgen” and “sehr gut” in a fake German accent.
He asked them if they were looking forward to being “run by Nazis”, at which point Deedes said he found the remarks offensive, pointing out that Springer was publicly committed to the reconciliation of the German and Jewish peoples.
Desmond then said all Germans were Nazis and insulted Deedes, using a string of expletives. He also called the Telegraph delegation “crooks, cheats, liars” and referred to Black, the disgraced former chairman of the Telegraph, as “a fat crook”.
Desmond’s Express this week switched allegiance from the ruling Labour Party to the opposition Conservatives. Conservative leaders indicated considerable embarrassment at the reports of the meeting.
The Telegraph newspapers are staunch long-term supporters of the Conservative Party.
Desmond has a reputation as a maverick. When one of his workers comes up with a good idea he has a bell rung in recognition, but if it is a bad idea he orders that a duck hooter be sounded.
But commentators were unanimous that his latest outburst had gone too far.
Subject: German news