A story run by the German tabloid Bild spread like wildfire in the United States by publications that strongly support President Donald Trump.
Claiming a “rioting sex mob” composed of Arab refugees had assaulted scores of women in Frankfurt during New Year's Eve celebrations, Bild reported to have spoken to victims and witnesses — adding veracity to the claims.
Turns out, the report was entirely made up. And now, Frankfurt authorities are after the two people behind the tale.
The victim and witness accounts were first picked up by Bild and published in early February, but they have since been taken down from the website. In the interview, prominent chef, Jan Mai, told Bild that 50 Arab men had acted erratically at his and other restaurants, sexually assaulting women and stealing jackets.
A 27-year-old woman confirmed the story, saying the assailants had grabbed her under her skirt, touching her inappropriately on her breast and between her legs. They were “everywhere,” she told Bild.
But Tuesday, Frankfurt police told The Frankfurter Rundschau that before the tabloid published its piece, local police hadn’t received any reports of sexual assaults over the New Year’s celebrations.
As they investigated further, officials uncovered no evidence of such claims and, as expected, investigators who spoke with the alleged witnesses and restaurant employees noticed that the version of events portrayed by the tabloid contradicted their findings.
“One of the alleged victims was not even in Frankfurt at the time,” they added.
Did the 27-year-old make up the story? Police seem to think so.
On its website, Bild published a retraction, claiming that the paper “apologizes expressly for the untruthful article and the accusations made in it,” and adding that the piece does not meet the standards the paper strives to maintain. Editor-in-Chief Julian Reichelt took to Twitter to apologize for the messy reporting.
Bild is a publication known for its criticism of anti-immigrant sentiments, which makes this story even harder to believe. And yet, many bought it and used it to instill fear among the public in Europe and abroad.
At such a delicate time for the Middle East, where foreign powers, such as the United States, continue to intervene and make matters worse, many believe false reports such as this and the Bowling Green debacle are only making matters worse.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Yannis Behrakis