Misquoted About Gorbachev, Kohl Says : Chancellor Denies Comparing Soviet Leader to Nazis’ Goebbels

Times Staff Writers

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said Sunday that in a Newsweek magazine interview, he was misquoted as comparing Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels.

Kohl’s denial appeared in today’s issue of the West German newspaper Die Welt.

“I regret this very much and disassociate myself from it unequivocally,” Kohl told the newspaper in response to the interview, published by Newsweek on Oct. 27, before his recent trip to the United States.

Newsweek continued to stand by its version of Kohl’s remarks to its Bonn bureau chief, Andrew Nagorski.

The controversial paragraph in the interview had Kohl declaring of Gorbachev, in a recapitulation of his view of the Iceland summit with President Reagan: “He is a modern Communist leader who knows something about public relations. Goebbels, one of those responsible for the crimes of the Hitler era, was an expert in public relations, too.”


‘An Incorrect Account’

“The interview is an incorrect account of a discussion I had with Newsweek,” Kohl told Die Welt. “This has created the false impression that I compared the person of Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev with that of Goebbels.”

Kohl’s office said that the original quotation, made in German, said of Gorbachev: “He is a modern Communist leader, but he knows something about PR (public relations). Goebbels knew something about PR. Let’s make this point clear.”

In Bonn, Newsweek’s Nagorski said that the chancellor’s chief spokesman, Friedhelm Ost, who attended the interview, had suggested broadening the quotation during a review of the English text with Newsweek by explaining who Goebbels was--that is, Adolf Hitler’s chief propagandist and a war criminal.

Nagorski said that he did not think the explanation was needed.

However, according to Newsweek, Ost insisted on inserting the phrase “one of those responsible for the crimes of the Hitler era,” although Kohl did not provide that specific description in the original interview.

Kill the Quotation

However, on Sunday another spokesman in the chancellor’s office denied that Ost had insisted on the insert and said that Ost had recommended that Newsweek kill the entire quotation.

He said that on Oct. 24, when the Newsweek edition first circulated in Bonn, a Kohl spokesman said that the chancellor did not mean to compare Gorbachev with Goebbels--but merely wished to indicate that public relations were separate from public policy.

According to some West German media, the quotation has upset the Soviets.

A Bonn official conceded Saturday that Soviet Ambassador Yuli A. Kvitsinsky called on the chancery with a message for Kohl--but would not say what it contained.

The West German magazine Der Spiegel said the Soviet ambassador has made an informal protest against Kohl’s reputed remark and said it might have serious consequences for relations between the two countries.

On Saturday, the Soviet Union canceled a scheduled visit to Moscow by West German research minister Heinz Riesenhuber without giving a reason. Riesenhuber had been expected to fly to Moscow on Sunday to sign an agreement between the two countries on cooperation in certain areas of nuclear research and safety.