The German Green Party has been hit by a new scandal after one of its best known and most controversial politicians used the n-word in a tweet.
Boris Palmer, the maverick mayor of Tübingen, who only months ago was widely hailed for his successful coronavirus policy, faces expulsion from the party over an alleged racist tweet.
The scandal comes at a pivotal moment for the Greens, who are currently leading in the polls ahead of September’s elections.
Annalena Baerbock, the party leader, has promised decisive action against Mr Palmer after he used the racial slur in a tweet defending a former German footballer against accusations of racism.
“Aogo is a poor racist,” Mr Palmer wrote of Dennis Aogo, the former international. “He offered his n----r d--k to women.”
Mr Palmer was defending Mr Aogo, who is of mixed German and Nigerian heritagem,after he was fired from his role as a television pundit over remarks in which he spoke of “training to the point of gassing”.
He also spoke out in support of Jens Lehmann, another former footballer who described Mr Aogo as the television network’s “token black”.
Mr Palmer has denied the charge of racism and says it should be clear his tweet was “obvious irony taken to the extreme”. He is refusing to resign quietly from the Green Party and insisting on a full hearing.
No stranger to controversy, Mr Palmer enjoys a level of national fame that is the envy of many more prominent politicians despite only being mayor of Tübingen, a small town of 90,000 people near Stuttgart.
A talented politician, he was once spoken of as a potential future chancellor, but his career has been marred by a series of alleged racist comments, including references to “conspicuous” and “criminal” migrants.
In 2018, he linked the behaviour of a cyclist to his skin colour, and objected to an advertising campaign for Deutsche Bahn, the national rail company, because it featured non-white people.
He appeared to have put past controversies behind him in the wake of his successful response to the coronavirus.
An outspoken critic of lockdown, he pioneered the use of regular testing to reopen public life in Tübingen — a policy that has since been adopted across Germany.. At one point the town was one of the only places where restarants and bars were open, yet it had some of lowest infection figures in the country.
But the latest scandal is a step too far for the Green Party leadership. “Boris Palmer's statement is racist and repulsive,” Ms Baerbock said in a statement.
By refusing to go quietly, Mr Palmer could yet turn it into a bigger headache for the Greens. Hearings to expel him from the party could take as long as six months — meaning they could still be ongoing during September’s election.