They were slick videos and media appearances with which Forum for Democracy and party leader Thierry Baudet marketed themselves as a political newcomer at the first election participation, four years ago. It now appears who financed those films: radio and television presenter Jort Kelder. Kelder confirms this himself, but believes that his journalistic independence is not in jeopardy.
It was Baudet himself who started the deal last week in a podcast. Kelder, Baudet said, had helped the young party to gain brand awareness during the first campaign for the elections to the House of Representatives: “Jort Kelder then (…) had someone who was out of work for a month. Then he said, ‘You know what? I’ll pay that boy out of my own pocket, and he can make a movie for you every day for a month.’”
Cellar said in Wednesday his own podcast for AVROTROS, ‘De Jortcast’, that he had indeed paid the editor who made the films, in his own words to enable “a career switch” for his former employee. He also brought him into contact with Baudet. In the films, the FVD party leader, among other things, visited a pub crawl in Groningen and the carnival in Den Bosch.
The videos were then distributed through the Forum for Democracy channels. Images from the videos were shown as campaign material in the election talk show Pauw & Jinek, which the NPO broadcast daily during the last weeks before the elections. Kelder also joined that program – and still does so regularly – as a political analyst.
Journalists who lend a hand to politicians: the accusation is often good for fireworks. Last month there was a lot of talk about a documentary that the VPRO broadcasted at the beginning of this year about D66 leader Sigrid Kaag. In it, the broadcaster willingly accepted numerous suggestions from the party and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of which Kaag is a minister.
According to Kelder, who has previously said that he will vote for the Party for the Animals, there is no question of a credibility problem. “To be honest, I’ve never seen those videos at all.”
The broadcasters point out that Kelder is a freelancer, and not employed by them.
Good band is no secret
It comes as no surprise that Kelder and Baudet got along. They already joined forces in 2016 during the Ukraine referendum campaign, as two outspoken opponents of a European trade agreement. In the summer of that year, Baudet took part in a game of ‘playing a soldier’ organized by Kelder on Terschelling.
Later they traveled together in the private jet of SuitSupply owner Fokke de Jong to Ibiza and Scotland. Those flights were in the news before, because Baudet never officially reported them in the gift register of the House of Representatives. Kelder also maintains a good relationship with outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD).
But that Baudet benefited financially from the collaboration with Kelder is new. And according to the FVD leader, the help was of great value to the campaign. “That was a really great gift from Jort, very cool that he did that,” he said last week.
According to Kelder himself, there is no problem. “Do you know who else has slept in my houses and driven cars,” he says when asked. „Sorry, I am a libertarian and distance myself from the intolerant cancel culture.”