German President Christian Wulff came under renewed fire Monday over a report he tried to stop a newspaper revealing details of a private home loan that has prompted widespread criticism.
Wulff allegedly left an answerphone message for Bild's chief editor threatening to break all contact with the paper's publishers if the story appeared, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said.
It said the call to the editor-in-chief of the mass circulation Bild daily took place on December 12, a day before the paper broke the story about the 500,000-euro ($646,000) loan.
Bild later Monday published its version of events in a statement on its website confirming Wulff had left a long message on the mobile phone of editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann.
"The president was outraged over the research on the house loan and threatened among other things criminal consequences for the Bild journalist responsible," it said.
Before running the initial article Bild said it had asked Wulff, whose role is largely ceremonial but who acts as a kind of moral compass for the country, for a statement, which he gave, before later withdrawing it.
Two days after the story appeared, Wulff again contacted Diekmann by phone apologising for the "tone and content" of his earlier comments, Bild said, adding it had decided not to report the incident.
Wulff's spokeswoman said the president valued the freedom of the media highly and had sought to be transparent.
Wulff, 52, made a statement on December 22 admitting he should have disclosed to Lower Saxony lawmakers in February 2010, four months before he became president, the loan from the wife of wealthy businessman Egon Geerkens.
He had responded to an official question put forward by the opposition Greens while he headed the northern state as to whether he had "business ties" with Geerkens or a firm with which Geerkens had dealings.
He denied such a relationship despite having accepted the loan at an advantageous interest rate from Geerkens's wife Edith to buy a home. He made no mention of that arrangement.
Further media reports focused Monday on a loan Wulff received from a regional bank.
Wulff played a major role in concluding an agreement for German carmaker Volkswagen to take over Porsche at a time of financial difficulty for the sportscarmaker.
Press reports alleged he received the loan on preferential terms as a thank-you for his involvement, as Porsche was one of the bank's clients.
Wulff, however, told the Der Spiegel weekly there "was no conflict of interests whatsoever."