German celeb apologises for racist talk show comments

Janine Kunze and Thomas Gottschalk reaped shitstorms for racist remarks made on a chat show with all white guests.

Actress Janine Kunze.
Actress Janine Kunze.Photo: imago images/Guido Schiefer

Berlin - German actress Janine Kunze has apologised for her remarks made on the WDR chat show "Die letzte Instanz" after being accused of racism on social media. 

"It has become clear to me that I have deeply hurt people, especially those of the Sinti and Roma community, with my thoughtless remarks," the 46-year-old wrote on Instagram on Sunday. As a mother of three children, she should be more enlightened, she continued. She said in future she would chose her words more carefully.

"My wish is that we learn from each other." She added a sketch of a heart to her post.

In the show hosted by Steffen Hallaschka on Friday evening, TV personalities Micky Beisenherz, Thomas Gottschalk, Janine Kunze and Jürgen Milski discussed current social issues, including the question: "The end of Zigeunersauce: is it a necessary step?" Some brands have renamed the condiment Paprikasauce because the traditional name which translates as "gypsy sauce" was considered offensive by many.

Hallaschka brought up that the Central Council of Sinti and Roma in Germany had said the name of the sauce perpetuated clichés and stereotypes. Kunze responded, "There are probably two or three people sitting there. They might have nothing better to do and then they get going with such nonsense."

Without a hint of reflection, she admitted that she "never thought about many words".

Viewers took to Twitter to express their outrage that the guests had dealt with the topic of everyday racism "without empathy", "uncritically" and "naively" and had even defended racist terms. Critics pointed out that all of the guests invited to a discussion on racism were white. 

Plenty of ire was also directed towards TV presenter Thomas Gottschalk (70), who claimed to have experienced "how a black person feels" for the first time when he attended a costume party in Beverly Hills dressed as Jimi Hendrix - in blackface.

On Sunday, WDR - a public broadcaster - admitted mistakes had been made. The programme had not gone "as we had planned and imagined". Controversial topics were supposed to be discussed in an entertaining way on the show, it said in a statement, and every guest had a right to express his or her opinion.

"But in retrospect, it is clear to us: with such a sensitive topic, people who have other perspectives and/or are directly affected should definitely have taken part in the discussion," the statement said. "In any case, we have learned from this."