Mathias Döpfner is the owner of the political news outlet Politico and the CEO of the German media company Axel Springer.
Axel Springer purchased Politico in August of 2021. The company also owns Insider (formerly Business Insider).
This is a guide to scandals and controversies involving Politico owner Mathias Döpfner.
Support For Donald Trump, Request To “Pray” For Trump
In 2020, Döpfner sent an email to executives in his company praising Donald Trump. The email said, “Do we all want to get together for an hour in the morning on November 3 and pray that Donald Trump will again become President of the United States of America?”
Speaking about Trump, Döpfner also wrote, “No American administration in the last 50 years has done more.”
The Washington Post reported that in his email, Döpfner said that Trump had made the right moves on the six most important issues of the last century. Döpfner reportedly praised Trump’s attempts to shake down members of NATO to spend more on the alliance, supported Trump’s tax cuts for multimillionaires, and for his attacks on tech companies like Google and Twitter.
Döpfner initially lied to the Washington Post when the newspaper asked him about the controversial email message. He told the paper, “that’s intrinsically false” and also said, “That doesn’t exist. It has never been sent and has never been even imagined.” He eventually admitted the email existed, but tried to claim it was an “ironic, provocative statement.”
Axel Springer under Döpfner operates Bild, a right-wing German tabloid newspaper. Bild has been involved in multiple controversies.
The Washington correspondent for Bild complained in an internal Slack message that the publication was slanted in favor of Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election debates.
Bild published a fake story in 2017 that claimed dozens of migrants assaulted women in Frankfurt, Germany, on New Years Eve. The story was headlined, “Sex mob raged in Frankfurt’s restaurant mile” and referred to a “mob of some 900 drunk asylum-seekers” who “assaulted women on one of the city’s best known shopping streets.”
Police investigated the case and found that no assaults took place. Bild later retracted the story and admitted to committing “untruthful reporting.”
Axel Springer-Bild Sexual Misconduct Allegations
In March 2021 Bild editor Julian Reichelt was accused of having inappropriate relationships with female trainees at the company. The allegation also said that the trainees were then promoted and rewarded in the workplace.
The company kept Reichelt in his job after a quick two-week investigation and claimed that it had found “no evidence whatsoever of sexual harassment or coercion.”
But during the investigation, one of the trainees told investigators, “That’s how it always goes at Bild” and she also explained, “Those who sleep with the boss get a better job.”
After the statement became public, Döpfner wrote an email with plans to blame the crisis on critics of the company, saying, “The picture here is the evil men. Since the picture is now that of noble defenders of women — the picture must get cracks.”
Döpfner also posted a YouTube video making similar claims that the crisis was the fault of outside agitators.
After consultants from Crisis-PR came on board, the company fired Reichelt.
Roe v. Wade Opinion Leak Controversy
On May 2, 2022, Politico received a leak of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Despite the newsworthiness of the leak, Döpfner suggested on a phone call with Politico reporters that it might be better not to publish the leak because the opinion would be official in a few weeks.
Axel Springer Pledge
Staff at Axel Springer’s headquarters in Germany are required to sign a pledge that calls for support for a “free market economy.” Döpfner said the values in the pledge “are like a constitution.”
Connection To Elon Musk
Döpfner sent a text to Musk suggesting, “Why don’t you buy Twitter” and noted, “Will be fun.”
Elon Musk was awarded in 2020 with the “Axel-Springer Award,” an award for entrepreneurs that Döpfner created.
Connection To Peter Thiel
One of Döpfner’s sons works as the chief of staff for conservative financier Peter Thiel.
Connection To Mark Zuckerberg
Döpfner created the “Axel-Springer Award” for outstanding entrepreneurial personalities and awarded it to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2015. The Washington Post reported that “some guests left Springer’s event with the impression that the hastily created award was mostly Döpfner’s way of showing off his Silicon Valley friend.”
Döpfner has also said that he has attended karaoke parties at Zuckerberg’s residence in Idaho.
Adidas Rent Controversy
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Döpfner’s Bild newspaper published more than 20 stories criticizing Adidas for not paying rent during pandemic lockdowns.
But in those stories Bild reportedly did not disclose that Döpfner was one of Adidas’ landlords, a probable conflict of interest. Döpfner is a co-owner of the Münzstrasse building in Berlin, where Adidas rents a two-floor space that it operates as a storefront.