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Swiss Give Their Berlin Envoy the Boot

Diplomacy: The ouster of Thomas Borer and his equally flamboyant wife follows his alleged affair with a model.

April 12, 2002|CAROL J. WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BERLIN — It was front-page news in all the best-read German dailies Thursday--not the state visit of the Chinese president or the frightful violence in the Middle East, but the unceremonious ouster of Berlin's most flamboyant diplomatic couple.

Swiss Ambassador Thomas Borer and his Texas beauty queen wife, Shawne Fielding, have been recalled to his Alpine homeland in the wake of a tabloid expose on an affair he claims he never had with a model photographed leaving the embassy last month at nearly 3 a.m.

Borer's protestations of innocence fell on deaf ears in Bern, the Swiss capital, which has ordered him out of the Berlin posting by month's end.

"The private lives of my colleagues don't interest me, as long as it doesn't hinder the carrying out of their duties," Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss told reporters. "I have come to the conclusion that under the given circumstances, Borer is no longer effective or in possession of the dignity and necessary composure and credibility to fulfill his mission."

German media, which have made the flashy couple fixtures on gossip and society pages throughout their three-year reign here as the ultimate party pair, jumped to the defense of their diplomatic darlings.

"Ambassador Toppled by Nude Model: Sex Affair or Smear Campaign?" the country's largest-circulation daily, Bild, demanded in its lead story. It featured an unusually staid photo of the couple alongside the headlined umbrage.

In the latest in a string of scandals surrounding Borer and his wife, the ambassador is alleged to have repeatedly entertained a German model in the embassy after hours. The Swiss tabloid Sonntags Blick ran an incriminating series of photos showing a woman entering and leaving the embassy in the wee hours of March 21. The glossy Bunte magazine followed with an interview with the 34-year-old model and beautician, Djamila Rowe, in which she claims to have had sex with Borer, including on the embassy's state conference table.

Fielding, a dozen years Borer's junior and the more frequent source of his professional troubles, provoked warnings from the Swiss Foreign Ministry less than a year ago when she appeared in a titillating photo spread in the German magazine Max. Fielding, a former Miss Dallas and Mrs. Texas America, was told to restrain her modeling pursuits.

Borer has made headlines for arriving at a 1999 Halloween party dressed only in a leotard affixed with leaves--he was impersonating autumn--and for brushing off his wife's propensity for snuggling with other men in public as something she does only with homosexuals. One heterosexual pop star begged to differ by threatening a defamation suit.

Although German media have previously participated in the frenzy of scandal-mongering and speculation, even mainstream dailies such as Die Welt and Berliner Morgenpost presented the couple's deposing as an unfathomable injustice.

"Berlin without Shawne is like a cake without frosting," Juergen Schau, Columbia TriStar's chief in Germany, lamented to Morgenpost. Society figure Countess Isa von Hardenberg called the couple's diplomatic deportation "a loss for Berlin." Even Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit--a regular on the capital's party circuit--issued a statement of praise for Borer.

In a front-page commentary, however, the newspaper Berliner Zeitung suggested that Borer had pushed the circumspect Swiss too far.

"In Berlin, Borer wanted to represent a modern Switzerland, but he lost the balance between politician and party-goer," the newspaper said, surmising that the ambassador erred in letting himself get trapped by sensation-seeking tabloids.

Neither Borer nor Fielding, who were vacationing in Mauritius when they received news of their recall, could be reached for comment. An embassy spokeswoman said there would be no official statements.

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