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The generous bosoms of Bavarian barmaids or country girls in their traditional blouses are a national German symbol, but an elderly politician suggesting to a young journalist that she would nicely fill one of them out was a step too far for the reporter, who has gone public in Stern magazine.

Rainer Brüderle, 67, allegedly made the remark a year ago, part of a clumsy chat-up of 29-year old Laura Himmelreich at a political gathering in Stuttgart.

The revelation has sparked a social media storm with everyday sexism being condemned in thousands of posts. The row also has a political dimension as Brüderle is to lead the government’s coalition partner, the FDP, in the next election.

Critics say this, and not the alleged offence, lies behind the journalist’s decision to go public now.

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