Fake news is tempting even for veteran politicians, but if you are a gaffe-prone chairman of an opposition party, it is best to verify your sources twice. This was not what Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), did and he now faces a lawsuit for defaming a woman.
Kılıçdaroğlu brandished an impressive photo last Tuesday at the parliamentary group meeting of his party. As TV cameras rolled, it was the perfect opportunity for the opposition leader to attack the government. The photo showing a woman crawling over a dumpster looking for food against the backdrop of a poster of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was enough fodder for Kılıçdaroğlu to hit out at the government on the troubled economy.
However, one thing he failed to verify was the identity of the woman and her purpose. Aysun Demir, a mother of four living in the western city of Eskişehir, revealed that it was her in the photo, and she was actually looking for food waste to give to stray animals.
Demir, who said she was far from how Kılıçdaroğlu described her - "a poor woman who can't afford even to buy food from tanzim [government-backed sale points]" - now seeks compensation from the opposition leader.
"Which poor people are supported by the state? You have to feel remorse when you look at this photo," Kılıçdaroğlu said as he waved the photo. Demir, who spoke to reporters Friday at the site where the photo was taken, said she was not poor as the CHP leader claimed and was disappointed by Kılıçdaroğlu's portrayal. "If only he'd ask me if I was as hungry as to scavenge from garbage. I am well-to-do enough. I have a four-story house here. I was only there to find food for stray animals as I do every time and will continue to do so," she said.
The 54-year-old woman said she was "not ashamed" of scavenging for animals but it "hurt" her to be portrayed as a poor woman. "It was very sad. I was so depressed that I thought about killing myself. My children could not go to school because they were traumatized. Kılıçdaroğlu should have thought before showing my photo," Demir said.
She added that she filed a lawsuit against the opposition leader. The only good thing that may come out of this episode in the politician's troubled career may be an animal shelter Demir plans to build with the compensation she expects to win.
Further dealing a blow to Kılıçdaroğlu's apparent mission to slam the government, Demir added that she was a fan of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and wished him success.
Kılıçdaroğlu is no stranger to legal troubles when it comes to attacking the government. Erdoğan and ministers won multiple libel lawsuits against the CHP leader for making false corruption claims. The politician was also criticized for his gaffes in the past including his claim that Turkey would be run by a prime minister if the new presidential system - where the president is the top executive and the post of prime minister is abolished - is adopted.
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