The Swedish press has reacted critically to King Carl XVI Gustaf’s denials of strip-club visits and had indirect contact with organised crime, arguing that he acted too late to quell the growing scandal.
In a long interview with the news agency TT on Monday, the King flatly denied all allegations that have been surfaced recently pertaining to visits to strip clubs, and contact with the criminal underworld.
He furthermore denied the possible existence of photographic evidence of visits to sex clubs, the centre of recent revelations disclosing that a close friend tried to buy the material.
The Swedish press reaction to the interview is dominated by the assessment that the monarchy is out of touch and that the King has shown poor judgement in both his late response to the growing scandal and his choice of friends.
Peter Wolodarski, leader page editor of the independently-liberal Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper remained skeptical of the King’s denial, asking why, if all the allegations were indeed untrue, the King waited so long to issue such a firm denial.
“And if there aren’t any photos from questionable places, how can one make sense of why the King’s close friend Anders Lettström tried to hire a major criminal to get a hold of pictures that actually don’t exist,” he asked.
Wolodarski went on to compare the King’s comments to former US president Bill Clinton’s famous statement when asked about having sex with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
“‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,’ US president Bill Clinton said amid the controversy in the 1990s. It was that statement that nearly cost Clinton the presidency, when it was later shown he had lied,” wrote Wolodarski.
“With Monday’s TT interview, the Swedish King has tripled the stakes in his own crisis of confidence. Only the truth will reveal where that leads.”
The independent Helsingborgs Dagblad argued that the King actions, despite almost 40 years on the throne, “indicate a lack of competence and isolation”.
The Social Democratic Folkbladet i Norrköping wrote that the King’s denials are a direct challenge to those claiming to have photographic proof of sex club visits, present their material.
“If such pictures exist then it is time for the King to become ex-King,” the newspaper argued.
The right-leaning Göteborgs-Posten followed a similar line of reasoning and wrote that an adult man and Sweden’s head of state, “ought to know better than to hang out in environments where there are criminal elements”.
The newspaper pointed out that Sweden has a monarchy because a majority of the population supports it, but pointed out that the royal family’s position is not in any way “God-given or eternal”.
Writing on the editorial page blog of the liberal Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper, political editor PJ Anders Linder, struck a more sympathetic tone, claiming the media is largely responsible for creating the King’s current crisis.
“A huge media storm has been whipped up because a person who the King knows has shown a lack of judgment,” wrote Linder.
“Now the king has made a clear and unequivocal denial. If you’re going to question that denial, more hard evidence and clear proof is needed. It’s not enough to keep spinning tales with invisible thread.”
The Social Democratic Värmlands Folkblad argued that the fault does not lie with the King it lies with the monarchy, described as a life-long straight-jacket for the Bernadotte family.
“Throw an antiquated form of government out the window. It would be a relief also for a king who does not seem to thrive particularly well in his role.”
Sweden’s largest newspaper by circulation, Aftonbladet, concluded simply that: “it can’t be easy being King”.
Public relations consultant Marianne Djudic of the Taste PR agency said the King’s statements amounted to too little, too late.
“This has negatively affected his ability to do his job,” she told the TT news agency.
Olof Ruin, a professor of political science and a constitutional expert, said the King should have addressed the allegations more clearly in November when he first spoke with the press following the publication of “Carl XVI Gustaf – den motvillige monarken” (‘Carl XVI Gustaf – the reluctant monarch’), urging people to “turn the page”.
“That could be interpreted as if something had happened,” Ruin told TT.
Peter Althin, chair of the Swedish Republican Association (Republikanska föreningen), also thinks the King waited too long to answer questions.
“It must be clear for everyone that those who have a public office must respond to criticism and, in the case, serious allegations. Now he’s finally done that on his way to the gallows and thus the next question is: is this information correct? We’ll find out eventually,” said Althin.