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Thorning-Schmidt: "Selfie shows leaders are normal people"

Both PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the photographer who captured her taking the infamous selfie say the mood in the stadium was upbeat and festive

Roberto Schmidt, who took this photograph, says there was nothing out of place when the leaders posed together for a selfie (Photo: Scanpix / Roberto Schmidt)

December 11, 2013

by Peter Stanners

Condemnation was swift after Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt was captured taking a so-called “selfie” together with US president Barack Obama and British PM David Cameron at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service yesterday.

But the Danish PM argues that there was nothing inappropriate about the photo and that the mood in the stadium was “festive”.

“The atmosphere was of course melancholic, but ultimately it was a celebration of a man who lived to be 95 years old, and who managed to accomplish so much in his life,” Thorning-Schmidt told Berlingske newspaper.

READ MORE: PM’s ‘selfie’ with Obama and Cameron goes viral

A little fun
“There was dancing on the stands and singing and dancing, so the mood was positive. And then we took a really fun selfie.”

She added: “Lots of photos were taken that day. Lots of photos were taken of Obama, and I think it was just a little fun. It also shows that even when leaders meet, we are also normal people who have a good time together.”

Her account of the day matches the description given by the photographer who captured the three leaders taking the selfie, Roberto Schmidt from AFP.

The PM said the selfie was not out of place given the service's "festive" atmosphere (Photo: Scanpix)

Carnival atmosphere
Schmidt had his camera trained on Obama when Thorning-Schmidt decided to snap the selfie of her, Obama and Cameron.

“All around me in the stadium, South Africans were dancing, singing and laughing to honour their departed leader,” Schmidt wrote on AFP’s website.

“It was more like a carnival atmosphere, not at all morbid. [...] I thought the world leaders were simply acting like human beings, like me and you. I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony-faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating in the stadium. For me, the behaviour of these leaders in snapping a selfie seems perfectly natural. I see nothing to complain about and probably would have done the same in their place.”

Michelle wasn’t “peeved”
Schmidt added that the photos showing a “peeved” looking Michelle Obama were also misleading.

“Photos can lie. In reality, just a few seconds earlier the first lady was herself joking with those around her – Cameron and [Thorning-Schmidt] included. Her stern look was captured by chance.”

Sense of humour
The PM also showed that she had a sense of humour when MPs Ole Birk Olesen and Joachim B Olsen (both Liberal Alliance) tracked her down in parliament today.

In a video they posted on Facebook, Thorning-Schmidt approaches and asks if the two would like to take a selfie, before posing with Olsen in front of the camera.

“Can we take a wet selfie?” Olsen asks before giving the PM a quick kiss on the cheek.

The video was uploaded onto YouTube by their party with the tagline: “Say what you like, but Thorning has a sense of humour and style!”

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