Cocaine scandal forces resignation of Jewish leader who hosted TV show

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Michel Friedman, the German Jewish leader and television talk show host, admitted possessing cocaine and resigned yesterday in an effort to end a month-long scandal that had strained German-Jewish relations.

Looking close to tears, Mr Friedman, thevice-president of Germany's 100,000-strong Central Council of Jews, appeared before television cameras in Frankfurt and admitted: "I have made a mistake. Drugs are no help. I am resigning from all public offices that I hold."

Last month, state prosecutors revealed that Mr Friedman, 47, whose inquisitorial TV programme Watch Out Friedman made him one of the most feared chat show hosts on German television, was under investigation on suspicion that he offered cocaine to prostitutes involved in a Ukrainian call-girl racket. "I have to accept that the high standards I set also apply to me. I realise that I have disappointed many," he said.

Mr Friedman's lawyers said their client had reached an out- of-court settlement in which he had agreed to pay a fine of €17,400 (£12,000) for possessing cocaine. The settlement enabled him to avoid a lengthy and possibly embarrassing trial. Mr Friedman, who took a leave of absence from his television job last month, said he did not plan to return. He also resigned fromthe conservative Christian Democratic Party.

The scandal raised questions on the "normality" of German-Jewish relations. Several Jewish leaders claimed Mr Friedman was the victim of an anti-Semitic witch-hunt.

Paul Spiegel, the president of the Central Council of Jews, praised Mr Friedman for coming clean. "It is to Michel Friedman's credit that he has faced up to the responsibility demanded of him by Germany's Jews," he said.