ARCHIV - 21.07.2022, Bayern, Bad Staffelstein: Friedrich Merz, Bundesvorsitzender der CDU, spricht im Innenhof von Kloster Banz auf einer Pressekonferenz. (Zu dpa "Merz verteidigt Flug zu Lindner-Hochzeit mit geringem Spritverbrauch") Foto: Nicolas Armer/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

A Trump supporter, a US arms lobbyist, a right-wing publicist, a lawyer who used to represent the AfD – and CDU leader Friedrich Merz. That was the list of speakers at an event organized by the staunchly conservative campaign agency “The Republic” which was to take place on August 31 at the state representation of Baden-Württemberg.

The highlight of the announced “Transatlantic Forum” was to be the conversation between Merz and Republican US Senator Lindsay Graham, an influential supporter of former US President Donald Trump.

But after loud criticism, both Merz and the state representation have now pulled the ripcord. “Friedrich Merz was, is and will remain an appointment with Lindsey Graham when he comes to Berlin at the end of August,” said the spokesman for the CDU chairman of the Tagesspiegel.

However, Merz distanced himself from the other speakers on Tuesday: “However, he will not meet Graham as part of The Republic’s event, participation has been canceled due to the changed program.”

In fact, it was only announced on Monday that in addition to Merz and Graham – who have known each other for many years – other speakers from the right-wing milieu should also appear at the event. The controversial publicist Henryk M. Broder and Grover Norquist, member of the board of the National Rifle Association (NRA) – an association of US gun lobbyists – were expected for another debate.

The lawyer Joachim Steinhöfel, who had represented the AfD and the right-wing populist online magazine “Tichys Insight” in the past, was also invited to the podium.

The state representation of Baden-Württemberg was surprised by the new list of speakers on Monday. “We see ourselves as a house that promotes diversity of opinion,” said a spokesman for the Tagesspiegel.

There are around 300 external events in the Tiergarten premises every year, and when approval is given, it is always checked whether the speakers are on the ground of the free democratic basic order. “We had no concerns with Friedrich Merz and Lindsey Graham,” said the spokesman on Monday. The other speakers have not yet been officially announced by the organizer.

By Tuesday morning, however, this seems to have happened: “Due to the changed program and the close proximity of the new speakers to the AfD, the event has the potential to damage the reputation of the state representation. That’s why we resigned from our contract as a landlord today,” the spokesman for the state representation told the Tagesspiegel on Tuesday.

There had previously been loud criticism of Merz. “My goodness,” tweeted the deputy leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, Konstantin von Notz, in the direction of Merz. “But otherwise you still have all the slats on the fence?” Merz had lost his compass, accused von Notz of the CDU chairman.

The state representation of Baden-Württemberg had also been criticized for hosting such an event. The house represents the interests of the Württemberg state government and is headed by State Secretary Rudi Hoogvliet, a confidante of Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann (both Greens). “As a house, we are not a Greens representation, but part of the executive state government of Baden-Württemberg,” said the spokesman for the state representation.

The campaign agency “The Republic” is viewed extremely critically by parts of the Union. The operators of the site repeatedly mobilize the Internet with lurid and populist presentations against the Greens and topics such as gender. Merz had wished “The Republic” all the best via the “Bild” newspaper last October: “I have followed the development of this project with interest and wish the initiators every success in terms of diversity of opinion in Germany.”