How exactly Döpfner, Axel Springer’s CEO, hopes to define nonpartisan journalism at an especially fragmented time for American politics is a question of intense interest as he aims to leave his mark on American media. His own politics have remained something of a mystery, too. But weeksbefore the 2020 U.S. presidential election, he sent a surprising message to his closest executives, obtained by The Washington Post:
“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?”
His email was inspired by a news story he shared about the government’s plans to sue Google for abuse of market dominance, an animating issue of his for years. But Döpfner went on to argue that Trump had made the right moves on five of what he deemed the six most important issues of the last half century — “defending the free democracies” against Russia and China, pushing NATO allies to up their contributions, “tax reforms,” and Middle East peace efforts, as well as challenging tech monopolies — if falling short, he implied, on climate change.
“No American administration in the last 50 years has done more,” Döpfner concluded.
Asked about the email, Döpfner initially responded with a forceful denial. “That’s intrinsically false,” he said. “That doesn’t exist. It has never been sent and has never been even imagined.”
When shown a printout of the text, Döpfner allowed a glimmer of recognition. It’s possible, he said, that he may have sent the email “as an ironic, provocative statement in the circle of people that hate Donald Trump,” because that’s exactly the kind of ironic, provocative thing that Döpfner, a garrulous and enthusiastic texter, likes to do.
“That is me,” he said. “That could be.”