Schroder wins right to block hair dye story

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The Independent Online

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, won a court order yesterday to stop a news agency repeating an image consultant's claim that he dyed his hair. The agency says it will challenge the decision, which could lead to months or even years of legal argument.

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, won a court order yesterday to stop a news agency repeating an image consultant's claim that he dyed his hair. The agency says it will challenge the decision, which could lead to months or even years of legal argument.

In an extraordinary reaction to the suggestion that his sideburns were dyed – and opposition attempts to use it to imply that he was not a trustworthy politician – Mr Schröder demanded a retraction.

The agency, ddp, said in a statement that the Chancellor felt the issue of whether he dyed or coloured his hair was important, and corrected the previous suggestion that his hair colour was not natural.

But to the astonishment of many political observers, Mr Schröder said this was not enough and applied for an injunction to prevent the allegation being repeated – which was upheld yesterday by Hamburg's regional court.

The presiding judge, Andreas Buske, said the correction statement failed to withdraw the initial suggestion. Both parties agreed that Mr Schröder's hair colour was real, he added.

Judge Buske also criticised ddp for failing to check whether the image consultant Sabine Schwind von Egelstein, whose remarks sparked the affair, had been right about the Chancellor's hair.

The incident has dented Mr Schröder's reputation as a sure-footed media veteran in the runup to September's general election. The pollster Reinhard Schlinkert said: "It damages the image of Schröder and of Germany, but I don't think it'll decide the election."

Meanwhile, others in the media are making hay using Mr Schröder's image. An advertisement for hair conditioner in national newspapers yesterday pictured him with bright red hair under the headline: "The main thing is thick hair, Gerhard."

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