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“What sparked this article will never go away”

“There have been rumors for a long time.

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“What sparked this article will never go away”

“There have been rumors for a long time.” This is how a text in the current “Zeit” begins. Three years ago, the Berlin gallery owner Johann König was accused in an anonymous letter by five women of behaving abusively towards them and of having sexually harassed them. Now it is said to be ten allegedly affected women who reported King's misconduct to the weekly newspaper. There is talk of groping, forced kisses, abuse of power and coercion.

After the first allegations arose in 2019, König had already filed a criminal complaint against unknown persons for defamation and defamation. The "Zeit" wants to know that the gallery owner has been charged with sexual harassment. However, the public prosecutor's office dropped the investigation. Now another woman has filed criminal charges against the gallery owner – anonymously, which is why the new investigations have been discontinued. König denies all allegations "without exception". His lawyer is quoted as saying that the “presumption of innocence” applies to his clients.

But the authors of "Zeit" ask König the rhetorical question: "How does the gallery owner deal with the accusations that have what it takes to damage his career, possibly even destroy it, and that have been circulating in the art scene for so long?" It comes to a 90-minute meeting between the gallery owner and the authors. According to König's lawyer, the conversation may not be quoted either directly or indirectly.

But the "Zeit" article, whose evidence is thin, has been around the world for a few days. Other newspapers picked it up and quoted it as if it were breaking news from a news agency. International art magazines have translated the information from the text into English and disseminated it further. Since then, König has been in a shit storm on Twitter.

Now he has spoken up and published a statement in the "Berliner Zeitung". The article in Die Zeit was "false and misleading". König explains: "The incidents definitely did not take place in the form described." Looking back, he could imagine that his "excessive and impulsive nature" and his visual impairment (König has been almost blind since an accident) could have led to the fact that women "felt harassed" by him or he was "perceived as abusive". "But what I do know for sure is that in those moments I never acted on purpose, never kissed anyone against their will, never disrespected a rejection, never accepted a no," writes König. He “never exceeded this limit”.

His statement ends with an apology if his behavior "came too close to someone in the manner described". König is shocked to have been put in the media pillory by the reporting of "Zeit". "What this article triggered will not go away," says König. He will take action against "slander", but he is certain "that the damage will remain even if there is legal success".

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