Der Spiegel editor-in-chief defends ‘beheading’ cover, says Germany should ‘stand up against’ Trump

Der Spiegel editor-in-chief defends ‘beheading’ cover, says Germany should ‘stand up against’ Trump
The editor-in-chief of German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel has defended a highly controversial cover depicting US President Donald Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty. He also called on Germany “to build an alliance” against the US leader.

“Der Spiegel does not want to provoke anybody,” Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel editor-in-chief and the executive editor of Der Spiegel Online, told Reuters, adding that the media outlet is actually “defending democracy” in “serious times.”

“We want to show what this is about, it's about democracy, it's about freedom, it's about freedom of the press, freedom of justice and all that is seriously endangered,” he said, referring to the cover published on Saturday’s magazine.

It featured the distinctive figure of Trump holding the bleeding head of the Statue of Liberty in one hand and a bloodstained knife in the other.

“On our cover the American president beheads the symbol which has welcomed migrants and refugees to the United States since 1886, and with democracy and freedom,” Brinkbaumer told the German news agency DPA, implying that the cover was a response to Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, which was dubbed ‘the Muslim ban.’

Der Spiegel is one of Europe’s largest weekly magazines, and the cover provoked a heated discussion on social media both in Germany and abroad, and drew criticism from other German media outlets and some politicians.

‘Irresponsible’ exaggeration ‘devalues journalism’

Germany’s Die Welt daily sharply criticized the cover, saying that it “damages” and “devalues journalism.” It also stressed that those who decided to depict Trump in such a way, comparing him to Islamist terrorists, had “lost all their moral guidelines.”

The daily also accused Der Spiegel of attempts to gain “publicity at any cost” and said that the cover was an “irresponsible exaggeration” that could lead only to the loss of credibility of the German media.

However, only 44 percent of Die Welt’s own readers agreed that Der Spiegel’s cover was indeed “exaggerated” while 56 percent said it was “adequate,” according to an online poll conducted by the media outlet.

Meanwhile, daily newspaper Bild and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung criticized Der Spiegel for presenting a “distorted image” of Trump and comparing him to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists.

Bild in particular noted that the new US leader’s image on the cover resembles that of Mohammed Emwazi, a British national known as ‘Jihadi John’ who was seen in several videos showing the beheading of Islamic State hostages.

Both media outlets stressed that Der Spiegel’s cover could underpin Trump supporters’ belief that the media is biased against him and “belong to the establishment, which he is allegedly up against.”

“The Spiegel cover is just what Trump needs – a distorted image of him which he can use to further his own distorted image of the press,” Bild said.

At the same time, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a member of Germany's Free Democratic Party (FDP) and vice president of the European Parliament, denounced the cover as “tasteless.” He also told Bild that it “plays disgustingly with the lives of the terrorists’ victims,” adding that “it says more about Der Spiegel’s editorial staff than about Trump.”

Meanwhile, populist anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) mocked Der Spiegel’s cover by presenting its own version of the cartoon, featuring the figure of Chancellor Angela Merkel holding a burning German constitution in one hand and a bloodstained knife with a Muslim crescent symbol on it in the other. The picture also features Merkel’s well-known slogan, “We can make it!”

Brinkbaumer did not comment on the extent to which the cover was intended to resemble beheadings by Islamic State. However, the cartoon’s author, US-Cuban artist Edel Rodriguez, told the Washington Post that he had set out to compare Trump with IS terrorists.

“It's a beheading of democracy, a beheading of a sacred symbol,” Rodriguez said, explaining the idea behind the cover. “Both sides are extremists, so I'm just making a comparison between them,” he added.

Germany should ‘stand up’ against ‘Nero’ Trump – Spiegel editor-in-chief

In the meantime, Brinkbaumer openly called on Germany to take on a leadership role in an international “alliance” against Trump in his editorial published by the magazine on Saturday.

In the piece, Brinkbaumer claimed that Trump “is becoming a danger to the world” and urged the German leadership to “stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government.”

He went on to say that “Germany must build an alliance against Donald Trump,” as a political struggle against him can only be successful “when mounted together with Asian and African partners” and “partners in Europe.”