German reporter apologises after smearing mud on herself and claiming she helped flood effort

Susanna Ohlen reporting after smearing herself in mud. Credit: RTL

A German reporter has apologised for smearing mud on herself moments before claiming in a news report that she had helped in the clean-up of the country's floods.

Footage emerged on Thursday of RTL journalist Susanna Ohlen smearing mud on her clothes and face in the town of Bad Muenstereifel. After wiping the dirt on herself, she delivered a news report where she claimed she had been helping in the efforts to clear up.

RTL subsequently published an article titled "Cleaning up after the flood: RTL presenter Susanna Ohlen lends a hand in Bad Muenstereifel."

In footage posted on social media, Ms Ohlen appeared to put mud on herself

Just hours after the footage was posted on Twitter, RTL said they had already suspended Ms Ohlen.

"Our reporter's approach clearly contradicts journalistic principles and our own standards.

"We therefore gave her a leave of absence on Monday after we heard about it," the station tweeted.

On Friday morning, Ms Ohlen admitted she made a "serious mistake" in smearing herself in mud.

The reporter reasoned that she was "ashamed" to look clean on camera, having helped with clean-up efforts previously.

In a news report, Ms Ohlen said she had been helping with the clean up effort

"I made a serious mistake on Monday in the flood area... after I had already helped privately in the region on the previous days, I was ashamed in front of the other helpers that morning, in a clean top standing in front of the camera," her apology on the RTL website reads.

"Without thinking about it, I smeared mud on my clothes."

More than 177 people died in Germany in last week’s flooding and a further 31 deaths were reported in Belgium, taking the overall death toll to 208. The cost of the floods in Germany has yet to be determined “but it is immense,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin on Thursday.

Wreckage from the floods in Germany

Her Cabinet approved a roughly €400 million (£342.7 million) package of immediate aid for flood victims. It promised to get moving quickly on funding plans to rebuild devastated areas, which is expected to cost billions. Still, Ms Merkel cautioned: “We will need a long time to repair all this damage.” Germany’s national weather service DWD said on Thursday that localised storms were again likely in parts of the flood-affected regions from midday Saturday.