German Magazine Editor Is Fired Over Fake Michael Schumacher Interview
The publisher of a German magazine that ran what it described as a “world sensation” interview with the retired Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher, but used responses written by artificial intelligence, has fired the magazine’s editor and apologized to Mr. Schumacher’s family.
Mr. Schumacher, 54, retreated from public life after he suffered a brain injury in a skiing accident nearly a decade ago, and his family has guarded his privacy fiercely since then. The front cover of the April 15 issue of the celebrity magazine Die Aktuelle promoted the interview with Mr. Schumacher, who is German, as his first since the accident: “das erste interview.”
The front cover included the words “It sounds deceptively real,” hinting that the interview might not be what it seemed.
Inside the magazine, quotations from Mr. Schumacher about his family and health appeared alongside photos of him smiling and photos of his children. The article explained that all the quotations attributed to Mr. Schumacher had been generated by artificial intelligence.
Mr. Schumacher’s family has been known for maintaining privacy over his health since he hit his head on a rock while skiing at Méribel, a resort in the French Alps, in December 2013. Doctors said at the time that his condition was serious and that he was “fighting for his life.” Few details about his health have emerged since then.
Sabine Kehm, a spokeswoman for Mr. Schumacher’s family, said in an email on Monday that the family was planning to take legal action against Die Aktuelle.
Funke Media Group, which publishes Die Aktuelle, apologized to the family in a statement on Friday and said that the magazine’s editor in chief, Anne Hoffmann, had been fired because of the article. She had run the magazine since 2009, the statement said. Reports that Mr. Schumacher’s family was planning to take legal action first appeared before Ms. Hoffmann was let go.
“This vulgar and misleading article should have never been published,” Funke Media Group’s managing director, Bianca Pohlmann, said in an emailed statement, adding that it did not meet the company’s journalistic standards “in any shape or form that we and our readers expect from a publisher like Funke.”
When Mr. Schumacher retired in 2012, he was the most successful Formula 1 driver in history. He won the world championship a record seven times and won a record-setting 91 Grand Prix races.
These feats have been matched only by Lewis Hamilton, the British driver who tied Mr. Schumacher’s seven-championship record in 2020. That same year, Mr. Hamilton topped Mr. Schumacher’s Grand Prix record, and he has gone on to win a total of 103 races.
Mr. Schumacher’s son, Mick Schumacher, is also a Formula 1 driver, serving as the reserve driver for Mr. Hamilton’s Mercedes team after two seasons with the Haas team.
Little information about Michael Schumacher’s life after the skiing accident has been made public. His family said in September 2014 that it had moved him from a hospital to the family’s estate in Gland, Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
His wife, Corinna Schumacher, said in the 2021 documentary “Schumacher” that “everybody misses Michael, but Michael is here.”
“Different, but he’s here, and that gives us strength, I find,” she said.
“We’re together, we live together at home,” Ms. Schumacher said. “We do therapy, we do everything we can to make Michael better and to make sure he’s comfortable, and to simply make him feel our family, our bond.”