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TV Broadcasts Wrong Kohl Speech

January 1, 1987

BONN, West Germany (AP) _ When Chancellor Helmut Kohl wished the country a ″Happy New Year 1986″ in his annual taped TV message, some West Germans spilled their champagne and Kohl himself did a double take.

It was, after all, the eve of 1987.

The chancellor was watching Wednesday night when one television network broadcast last year’s message by mistake and not Kohl’s wish for a happy 1987.

The ARD TV network issued a red-faced apology, the government said it was ″scandalized,″ some conservative politicians spoke darkly of sabotage, and the chancellor was said to be angry.

The political opposition, tongue in cheek, said the mistake was understandable because Kohl’s speeches tend to sound alike anyway.

Government spokeswoman Ursula Knupper-Heger said, ″I noticed something was wrong right away when he didn’t have on the same suit″ that he wore when taping the 1987 address.

She said Kohl tuned in at his home on Oggersheim and ″his reaction was correspondingly harsh.″

The switchboards of ARD affiliates were jammed by irate callers who charged, among other things, that the television staff was Communist-infiltr ated.

The network broadcast the full 10 minutes of the wrong speech. The ARD expressed its regrets for the ″mixup″ and showed the proper speech on Thursday evening.

NRD, the ARD affiliate in Hamburg, where the broadcast originated, said the tape had been inadequately labeled. ″There is no indication that this exchange was deliberate,″ a statement said.

NDR program director Rolf Seelmann-Eggebert said television editors noticed after a few minutes Wednesday night that they were showing the wrong speech. But he said they couldn’t find the right speech immediately.

A government press office statement said the incident was ″an insult to all those watching.″

The statement said chief government spokesman Friedhelm Ost ″assumes that ARD will apologize for this incident, which cannot be explained by technical failure, and that those in ARD who are responsible for this incident will be called to account for it.″

The opposition Social Democrats said Ost’s complaints were silly.

″The chancellor’s New Year’s message for 1987 avoided the country’s real problems, just like the one in 1986 did,″ said Guenther Verheugen, a spokesman for the Social Democrats.

A leading conservative, Gerold Tandler, charged that the speech swap was an ″intentional sabotage that was systematically prepared.″

Tandler is general secretary of the Christian Social Union party, the Bavarian sister party of Kohl’s Christian Democrats.

Other conservatives suggested someone was trying to poke fun at Kohl just before the national elections on Jan. 25.

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