A POLISH priest and broadcaster has branded the country’s president a “fraudster” who is in the pockets of a Jewish lobby, and described the first lady as a “witch”, according to a news magazine.
Wprost, one of Poland’s most respected publications, claims it has obtained a recording of Father Tadeusz Rydzyk in a scathing attack on the president, Lech Kaczynski, and his wife, Maria.
The magazine says Fr Rydzyk vented his fury at a closed-door conference in the city of Torun. In particular, he savaged the president for apparently caving in to pressure from Jewish groups seeking compensation for property seized by Poland’s Communist regime after the Second World War.
“You know what this is about: Poland giving [the Jews] $65 billion. They will come to you and say, ‘Give me your coat. Take off your trousers. Give me your shoes’,” the magazine quotes Fr Rydzyk as saying. He also apparently suggests that Mrs Kaczynski, whom he describes as a witch, should experience euthanasia because of her support for limited abortion rights.
Fr Rydzyk, the founder and head of Radio Maryja, a popular, conservative and nationalistic radio station, who also runs a TV station and a newspaper, called Wprost’s story a “provocation” and said his words had been taken out of context.
But he did add, however, that “the truth must be told even if it irritates Satan”, which has been seen as an indication that the recording is credible.
The magazine, in turn, says it has verified the authenticity of the recording and stands by it.
Although Mr Kaczynski did not comment, a presidential aide said: “If this recording is genuine, it’s absolutely scandalous.”
A criminal prosecutor has announced that he will investigate the authenticity of the recording, and, if verified, the priest could find himself in court. Under Polish law, insulting the president is a criminal offence.
The controversy is a severe embarrassment to Poland’s ruling coalition. The government has always sought strong relations with Fr Rydzyk and his media empire as a means of courting Poland’s arch-Catholic and nationalistic voters.
The station claims to have three million regular listeners, and its deeply conservative and nationalistic message has dovetailed with a government eager to position itself as a protector of morals and the Polish nation.
Cabinet ministers are regular guests, and on Sunday, Mr Kaczynski’s twin brother, Jaroslaw, the prime minister, was among 150,000 at a ceremony to mark the station’s 15th anniversary.
The controversy will further blacken the reputation of Radio Maryja, which has attracted frequent accusations of xenophobia and antisemitism.