By Joseph Nasr
BERLIN (Reuters) - A popular German singer, some of whose lyrics have been described as anti-Semitic and homophobic, will be Germany's representative at the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) next year, sparking criticism on social media and in the press.
Xavier Naidoo, an R&B artist of Indian and African heritage whose albums have sold millions, was handpicked on Thursday evening by public broadcaster ARD to be the face of Germany at the song contest to be held in Stockholm.
"Is Xavier Naidoo the right one for the ESC?" the mass-selling Bild newspaper headlined on Friday, inviting celebrities and politicians to argue for and against his selection.
Naidoo's 2012 song "Wo sind" (Where Are) was criticized by German media, politicians, rights groups and the public for lyrics that suggest homosexuals are pedophiles.
On Germany's reunification anniversary last year, he appeared at a rally of the Reichsbuerger group, whose members promote the establishment of a German Reich based on 1937 borders that include large parts of Poland and former Soviet republics.
"Both the guy and the decision are unbelievable," Johannes Kahrs, a politician with the left-leaning Social Democrats, junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government, wrote in Bild.
Nicole, a Germany singer who won the first Eurovision for her country in 1982, countered: "I am sure Xavier will be a worthy representative at the ESC. I like his music a lot and I find it great that an established artist has the courage to compete on the international stage."
In a song released after the 2008 financial crisis, Naidoo referred to the German-Jewish Rothschild banking family as "Baron Deadschild" and used the word "schmock", a derogatory term in Yiddish.
"I find his nomination problematic," said Anetta Kahane of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a rights group. "I know him personally. He is a nice guy. But this is not enough. He has to address the discrepancy between who he is and what he writes."
Responding to the criticism of his ESC nomination, the 44-year-old Naidoo distanced himself from Reichsbuerger in a statement and said he wanted a "liberal and welcoming" Germany.
Germany came last in this year's competition with zero points. It won the contest, which is watched by millions in Europe and beyond, in 2010.
German television viewers will in February choose the song Naidoo will sing at ESC from a choice of six entries to be prepared for him.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Richard Balmforth)