Speaking at a public debate in Frederikshavn on Friday, Inger Støjberg regaled the audience with a tale about some friends who put their child in private daycare after a public institution in Aalborg barred kids from eating pork in the name of multiculturalism.
There was just one problem with the story: it was completely made up.
Following Støjberg’s remarks, local media outlet Nordjyske contacted Aalborg Municipality and was told that there isn’t a single daycare in the area that has banned pork.
“We follow the Danish Health Authority’s guidelines and have no reason to ban pork from our institutions. There might be an offering of different foods, but there is no ban,” Hans Christian Mariegaard, who heads the municipality’s children’s unit, told Nordjyske.
Confronted with this on Monday, Støjberg said she regretted retelling the story but said she had no reason to believe it wasn’t correct.
“I was told this story in private company by people I trust,” the integration minister wrote in an email.
“I didn’t have reason to doubt that the retelling I heard was correct. I cannot further document that the parents in question were told that they couldn’t bring pork [in their child’s lunch, ed.] and I therefore shouldn’t have retold the story without double-checking with Aalborg Municipality,” she continued.
In her written response to Nordjyske, Støjberg identified the daycare institution by name, but Mariegaard said he spoke with personnel there and no one knew anything about the supposed pork ban.
Støjberg was roundly criticized on Monday, particularly after a Facebook post written by an Aalborg Municipality councilwoman was shared nearly 1,500 times.
“What really bothers me is not so much that she lied, but that [government party] Venstre has so little faith in their own project that they need to lie to get the people on board with it,” Anja Lundtoft Thomsen wrote.
The incident was hardly the first time that Danish politicians weighed in on whether or not public institutions should bar pork in deference to Muslim children. In the summer of 2013, the debate hit such a fever pitch that it was declared 'the meatball war' (frikadellekrigen) in the national media and even the then prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, felt the need to weigh in on the issue.
In the municipal elections of November 2013, a member of the anti-immigration Danish People's Party even agreed to concede a close mayoral campaign in the Copenhagen suburb of Ishøj on the condition that the winning mayor would promise to serve more pork meatballs.
While there are no official numbers on how many public institutions that ban pork, in 2013 it was estimated to be about 30 out of 1,719.