“There’s a video causing a stir within the #EU which involves alleged cocaine use at the European Parliament,” claims a tweet with a video of a man in a suit placing something on his hand — between his thumb and index finger — and inhaling it. He is next shown slouching in his seat and smiling. 

The video has been retweeted nearly 3,000 times since March 25, 2023. It was also shared on Facebook with the caption, “A parliamentarian does drugs during a session of the European Parliament!! We now have a better understanding of how laws are passed.” The video was viewed more than 3,000 times on Telegram.

Screenshot taken on Twitter on April 12, 2003 …………. Screenshot taken on Facebook on April 12, 2023

In reality, the video was not filmed at the European Parliament and the man shown has never been an MEP. Instead, he is a former German lawmaker who has called himself a fan of snuff tobacco.

Former German lawmaker, not MEP

A reverse video search using the InVid tool — explained here — turned up the same video but in better quality on TikTok. It shows a man in a suit putting brown powder onto his hand and snorting it. In the posts circulating on Twitter and Facebook, the poor quality of the video makes it impossible to get a clear view of the powder or its colour.

The TikTok video description includes the hashtags #bundestag, #jensmaier and #tabak.

A member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party since 2013, Jens Maier sat in the Bundestag (the lower house of the German paliament) between 2017 and 2021. He is no longer a lawmaker. 

A Google image search confirms that he is the man who appears in the video. 

Maier was ordered by a court in 2019 to pay damages over a racist tweet. Three years later, he was sent into early retirement from his job as a judge at the regional court of Dresden, notably because of remarks he had made that were deemed racist. 

His archived biography on the Bundestag site (which is not up to date) does not mention him having ever been an MEP. The independent German site Abgeordnetenwatch.de, which allows German citizens to submit questions to their parliamentary representatives, says that Maier has no current mandate, nor is he a candidate for a position at home or in the EU. 

A Google search for “Jens Maier” and “European Parliament” in French, English and German turns up various articles on Maier from recent years (1, 2, 3) but none of them mention that he was an MEP or had ever even visited the European Parliament.

A search of the name “Jens Maier” on the European Parliament site turns up no results. Neither does it appear on lists of MEPs from the current parliament (2019-) or the previous one (2014-2019).

The European Parliament’s press service told AFP on April 14, 2023 that “we were able to confirm that the video does not show a member of the European Parliament, nor was it filmed at the European Parliament. The claims that it relays are false”. 

Video from the German parliament in 2020

A Google search for “Jens Maier” and “cocaine” produces several articles published by other fact-checkers, including one from Euronews, which mentions a video report posted on March 9, 2023 to the YouTube channel of Germany’s public broadcaster network ARD. Focused on radical members of the AfD, the report brings up Jens Maier at the 4:50 minute mark. Four seconds later there is the same video clip that has been circulating online.

The MDR, the broadcaster from the ARD network that produced the video report, told AFP on April 11, 2023 that it pulled the video clip of Maier from footage of a debate at the Bundestag on November 6, 2020. 

A search on the Bundestag site confirms that Maier was indeed at the debate that day. Footage of the debate is available on the site of German public broadcaster Phoenix, which notably broadcasts the plenary sessions of the Bundestag. The clip that has been circulating online appears at the 6:03 minute mark. It shows Maier going through the same motions, with a pin on the lefthand side of his blazer, an open booklet in front of him and the two objects to his left and right. He is also sitting in the same place, on a blue chair in front of a black table. 

The word “Bundestag” appears in the upper righthand corner of the video on the Phoenix site. 

Screenshot taken on Twitter, on April 13, 2023 ………….. Screenshot taken on the website Phoenix, on April 13, 2023

Nor do the chairs and tables in that video resemble those of the European Parliament chambers in Brussels and Strasbourg (where the chairs are black and the tables blue). 

Snuff tobacco

While it is not possible to verify exactly what the lawmaker was consuming in the video, he mentioned his fondness for snuff tobacco, or “Schnupftabak,” in a German television interview in August 2017. He goes through the same motions in other videos including one (at the 5:31 minute mark) posted to Phoenix’s YouTube channel on June 19, 2020.

Snuff is powdered tobacco — often with flavouring — that is snorted into the naval cavity. The box held by Maier in the video strongly resembles one marketed by the German snuff brand Bernard.

Marie Genries

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AFP Belgique

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Translated by

Anna Maria Jakubek


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