Tempers seem to be running short among politicians and their spouses as the national election campaign heats up. Sindre Finne, husband of Conservatives’ leader Erna Solberg, jumped to his wife’s defense on Tuesday when he thought state broadcaster NRK was questioning her too hard during a live debate, but then felt compelled to apologize for blasting NRK on social media.
Solberg herself had also become irritated during an NRK interview last week, when she didn’t like the questions she was getting about fortune tax. Confronted with studies by professors who don’t think removal of the tax will achieve the results the Conservatives are promoting, Solberg abruptly ended the live interview on national television by pulling off her microphone and removing her ear plugs, claiming she could no longer hear the reporter’s questions.
Solberg has been known to yell at reporters on previous occasions as well, and her NRK performance last week raised eyebrows. On Wednesday it was her husband getting unwanted attention for his criticism of NRK and his suggestion that the state broadcaster should remove political reporter and anchor Ingunn Solheim for the duration of the campaign.
“Will this be a new NRK debate without a single critical question to the (incumbent) government even though they’ve steered Norway for the past eight years,” Finnes wrote on Twitter. He accused NRK of supporting the left-center government over the right- or right-center government his wife wants to lead. When he suggested that “someone responsible” at NRK should remove Solheim, NRK called him to ask him to elaborate.
Then he really got hot under the collar: “This looks like a conscious strategy to damage the Conservatives,” Finnes told NRK. When NRK called he asked whether NRK was having second thoughts, whether they’d made agreements or promises, and why they didn’t ask critical questions to his wife’s opponents. He apparently hadn’t seen the earlier nightly newscast, when Health Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of Labour was grilled repeatedly about charges Labour had mislead the public on how many new nursing home rooms the government was providing.
A short time afterwards, though, Finnes called NRK back himself and demanded to retract everything he’d said. Then he put out new, more contrite messages on Twitter, writing that “after thinking things through, I hope Ingunn Solheim makes the best out of the rest of the campaign as program leader.”
Finnes, who may become the spouse of Norway’s next prime minister, also works for employers organization NHO, in its industrial division. By Wednesday afternoon, he was apologizing to NRK and directly to Solheim. “My heart beat a bit too hard for Erna during the debate yesterday,” Finnes wrote. “I hope you’ll accept my apology.”
NRK did, and officials at the Conservative party seemed to hope it would all blow over.
“Sindre has asked NRK to excuse him,” Sigbjørn Aanes, communications chief for the party, told NRK. “We view Ingunn Solheim as a capable program leader who has done well during this campaign.”
Aanes explained that “Sindre became strongly engaged” and no longer thinks NRK is trying to run its own campaign in favour of Solberg’s opposition.