- Angela Merkel’s successor was laughing on camera while visiting a flood-ravaged town in Germany.
- Armin Laschet of the German CDU party apologized on Saturday after severe online backlash.
- Germany is set to vote at upcoming elections in September.
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Armin Laschet, who leads the governing conservative party and is also the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia — one of the two states most affected by the floods — interrupted a party meeting to attend flood-hit areas over the weekend.
While visiting the devastated town of Erftstadt, which has been completely ravaged by the floods, Laschet was caught breaking into an extended laugh as German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier held a solemn press conference about flood aid.
Watch the moment below:
—Jeremy Cliffe (@JeremyCliffe) July 17, 2021
The moment caused outrage from opposition politicians and the public, as the hashtag #LaschetLacht — Laschet laughs — started trending on German Twitter.
Laschet took to Twitter on Saturday to apologize, writing that his laughter was “inappropriate.”
“The fate of those affected, which we heard about in many conversations, is important to us,” he wrote. “So I regret all the more the impression that arose from a conversational situation. That was inappropriate and I am sorry.”
Laschet was the favorite to succeed Merkel as German Chancellor in the upcoming September elections.
His party’s lead in the polls had been melting away since February, and support notably dropped again when he was chosen as a candidate in April.
Many experts believe he is struggling to emerge from the long shadow of Merkel, who has been in power since 2005, according to The Guardian.