TV show accused of character assassination by allegedly misquoting populist politician

Populist FvD leader Thierry Baudet took television program Buitenhof to court for what he himself called "fake news", "outrageous untruths" and "shameful lies", according to AD. His lawyer Dirk Vermaat said in the court in Lelystad on Wednesday that the program deliberately misquoted Baudet for the purpose of "character assassination" - to make him out as a racist, the newspaper reports.

Buitenhof recently paraphrased Baudet, saying that he shocked the lower house of parliament "by saying that the EU has a preconceived plan to replace the white European race with African immigrants" - translated from Dutch. 

Translated from Dutch, Baudet's actual words in the parliamentary debate were that the EU "turned out to be a kind of immigrant machine" that "set up ferry services to transfer immigrants from Africa to Europe to weaken national identities so that there would be no more national states", according to AD.

Lawyer Vermaat started his argument in court by saying that this hearing could have been prevented if the Buitenhof reporter had simply said that they summarized Baudet's work. According to the lawyer, it would have made "clear to everyone that it was her thoughts". Instead, the reporter and therefore Buitenhof assassinated Baudet's character, according to Vermaat. "They lied hard. With the apparent purpose of committing character murder".

By using three words that Baudet did not - "white", "race" and "replace" - Buitenhof reported "fake news" and that is not protected by freedom of expression, Vermaat said. The lawyer wants Buitenhof to publish a rectification on its website and in the broadcast, and pay a fine if the court rules in Baudet's favor. He ended his plea by saying, among other things, that "politicians are declared fair game if words can be put in their mouths". 

Jens van den Brink, the lawyer representing Buitenhof broadcaster VPRO, said in court that Buitenhof never claimed Baudet is a racist. In order to put Baudet's words in context, Van den Brink showed various video clips of Baudet speaking. In one he said that the Netherlands is "homeopathically diluted", in another he said he would like to live in a country that is "dominantly white". These quotes are in line with Buitenhof's paraphrasing, the lawyer said. 

Van den Brink called this lawsuit "bizarre" and accused Baudet of interfering with independent journalism. "You should not start summary proceedings against media that remind you of your words. A bit silly to then say the exact words did not go down well," the lawyer said. "It is the job of journalism to clarify. And Buitenhof did that." 

The lawyer added that he doesn't believe the Buitenhof broadcast harmed Baudet's party. "The party is doing well." Moreover, Baudet previously said that people would look beyond the text of Buitenhof, Van den Brink said. "What is he complaining about?"

The court will rule on March 25th. 

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