"I am all for climate change."
According to leaked chat, email, and text messages obtained by German publication Die Zeit, Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner is "all for" rising global temperatures. Oh, and he tried to use Axel Springer's flagship tabloid, Bild, to influence Germany's last election cycle.
It sounds like a joke, but we're not kidding.
"I am all for climate change," Döpfner, whose publishing house owns the likes of American publications Politico and Insider, wrote in private messages back in 2017, apparently arguing that, as The Guardian put it, "human civilization in periods of warm climate was always 'more successful' than during cold-climate periods."
"We shouldn't fight climate change," he added, "but adjust to it."
Döpfner's unsettling remarks don't end there. He's got some seriously xenophobic things to say about Muslim folks — in one message, he summed up his views with a point-blank "free west, fuck the intolerant Muslims and all the other riff-raff" — and in another concerning instance, the CEO was seen urging former Bild editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt to use his publication to "do more for" Germany's Free Democratic Party (FDP) ahead of Germany's last election cycle.
"Please strengthen the FDP," he wrote to Reichelt just two days before the election. "If they do well they can act with such authority in the traffic light [coalition of Social Democrats, Green party and FDP] that it collapses."
And on that note, Döpfner's messages also show the CEO comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler.
"That is the end of the market economy," he wrote after the German parliament passed a pandemic aid package. "And the beginning of 33."
Ultimately, everyone's entitled to their opinions, even if they suck.
That said, Döpfner's a particularly powerful person, so some serious scrutiny is warranted. And on an entirely different level, it's extremely concerning to see the CEO of a publishing behemoth asking his editors to promote one political party over others ahead of elections.
"Articles of mine published over four decades show the way I think. I let myself be taken to account for every published word," Döpfner wrote Thursday in an internal statement to Axel Springer employees, according to the Guardian. "But out-of-context fragments of texts and conservations cannot be held up as my 'true way of thinking.'"
"In the spirit of freedom and variety of speech I enjoy having arguments — especially with our editors, who are all responsible and self-confident," he reportedly continued. "That also explicitly applies to alleged influence taken in regards to the FDP. I am very close to the values of this party. But thank God our journalists won't let themselves be influenced."