The American ambassador to Germany is blaming anti-American bias for a "fake news" scandal that has shaken the country's leading news magazine. In a letter to Der Spiegel, Richard Grenell accused the magazine, and the media in general, of "institutional bias" when reporting on the US, the Guardian reports. "These fake news stories largely focus on US policies and certain segments of the American people," he wrote. Disgraced former Spiegel journalist Claas Relotius has admitted inventing quotes and other details in 14 stories, including one about a pro-President Trump town in Minnesota and another about an anti-immigrant militia in Arizona. Grenell said German reporters should try contacting the US Embassy before they submit articles.
The magazine, which has fired Relotius and apologized to readers, rejected Grenfell's accusation. "When we criticize the American president, this does not amount to anti-American bias—it is criticism of the policies of the man currently in office in the White House," deputy editor-in-chief Dirk Kurbjuweit wrote to the ambassador. "Anti-Americanism is deeply alien to me and I am absolutely aware of what Germany has the US to thank for: a whole lot." Relotius, 33, could face charges in connection with the scandal, the New York Times reports. The magazine says it has filed a complaint regarding a donation drive Relotius set up to help two Syrian orphans he had profiled. It has emerged that only one of the orphans actually exist—and donations went to the journalist's personal account. (In January, Trump named the winners of his "Fake News Awards.")