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Bad timing! German finance minister gets caught hiding his watch on TV

Bad timing! German finance minister gets caught hiding his watch on TV

In echoes of Emmanuel Macron’s covert watch operation, Christian Linder comes under attack.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner was spotted putting on his luxury wristwatch at the end of a TV talk show appearance, leading to accusations from political rivals that he was trying to disguise his wealth.

Lindner, who leads the business-friendly Free Democrats, appeared on German public broadcaster ZDF's talk show “maybrit illner” last week. When the credits started rolling at the end of the show, the Porsche-driving finance minister pulled out a wristwatch that looked like his Rolex Milgauss, prices of which can start in the high four figures.

Both the finance ministry and Lindner's spokesperson declined to comment and refused to answer why Lindner did not wear his watch during the broadcast, but then put it on at the end. French President Emmanuel Macron faced similar scrutiny last month, when he was spotted covertly taking off his watch in the middle of a TV appearance.

A staffer from "maybritt illner"'s editorial office told POLITICO “there are no rules” about guests' visual appearance. It's the participant's choice whether to wear a watch or not, the staffer added. Attempting to correct the record in France last month, the Elysée claimed Macron took off the watch because he “tapped it against the table, causing a rather loud noise,” according to French media.

Lindner's fellow panelists — Lars Klingbeil, secretary-general of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats, and Omid Nouripour, co-leader of the Green party — both wore watches.

Some viewers — and political opponents — accused Lindner of taking off his fancy watch to hide his wealth and appear more down to earth.

Lindner, who was a management consultant and entrepreneur before and at the start of his political career, earns around €20,000 gross per month as a federal minister. He receives further remuneration for his Bundestag mandate. Lindner has continuously been a member of either the regional parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia or the Bundestag since 2000. According to ntv, adding up all of his additional income from 2017 to 2021, the FDP leader received at least half a million euros in addition to his Bundestag salary.

“You can see how out of touch Lindner is by the fact that he hides the fat Rolex during the talk [show], but immediately takes it out afterward,” tweeted Marlon Borchers, a representative of the Left Party's youth organization.

When Social Democrat Sawsan Chebli faced backlash in 2018 for wearing a Rolex Datejust, Lindner tweeted “let her wear [a] Rolex. You don't have to be poor to be against poverty.”

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