A far-right MEP from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party shared insults and delight over the death of David Sassoli, according to leaked text messages obtained by the broadcaster ARD.
European Parliament President Sassoli died Tuesday at the age of 65, prompting an outpouring of sympathy from MEPs and European leaders. But the AfD took a different line, at least in private.
While an official statement from the party said that Sassoli “died much too early” — it was a different story in the leaked messages.
“Finally, that filthy pig is gone,” wrote Nicolaus Fest, an AfD MEP, in a chat with other members of his faction. “An anti-democrat, a disgrace to any parliamentary idea.”
After his comments were made public, Fest posted on Facebook in an attempt to justify his words — but not to issue an apology. The picture painted of Sassoli in statements and obituaries was “incomplete,” Fest claimed. He added it was “regrettable” the messages had been leaked.
AfD party leader Jörg Meuthen distanced himself from Fest’s statements. “Such a statement about a colleague who has just died after a serious illness is disturbing, deeply repugnant and inexcusable,” Meuthen told ARD.
The backlash from senior MEPs was swift.
Katarina Barley, vice president of the Parliament and a member of the German Social Democrats, told ARD Fest’s comments were “characteristic of their author and of that contempt for humanity against which Sassoli has always stood resolutely.”
Barley told POLITICO: “One of the many reasons why David Sassoli was respected across party lines was that he did not tolerate hate speech in the European Parliament. Mr. Fest’s statement is despicable and an example of the hatred and indecency that David always stood firmly against. The fact that Mr. Fest refuses to apologize for his indecent remarks speaks for itself.”