to backpedal (espAE) / back-pedal (espBE) (on sth.) [fig.] - (bei etw.[Dat.]) zurückrudern [fig.]
DWDS führt Beispiele aus der ZEIT und findet das älteste in dieser Bedeutung interessanterweise bei der FDP:
DIE ZEIT, 09.09.1994
(manni3)related discussion: "zurückrudern" - #5
To row back is used in English (http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary...
) in this sense, so I could well imagine that this is a translation of the English expression.
(Spike)related discussion: "zurückrudern" - #14
Hansard Corpus (British Parliament, 1803-2005, via BYU):
• she seems to be rowing back, if that is the correct phrase, rather fast from the kind of harebrained schemes that the Liberal party espouses (Douglas Hurd, 1987)
• Government have been struggling to create an environment for investment in rolling stock by steadily rowing back from their rhetoric about consumer choice (1993)
• there has been a lot of cloudiness and a good deal of rowing back and nostalgia for the good old CND days (Hurd, 1995)
• in this clause they are rowing back even from that concession (1996)
• I do not want to see any rowing back from the extraordinarily strong position identified by the Lord Chancellor (1998)
• we shall work to ensure that the Government do not try to row back from that now (1999)
• Are the Government rowing back from their original position or is it still their objective? (2001)
• Like his leader, the hon: Gentleman is rowing back on what he said only a few months ago (2004)http://www.hansard-corpus.org/x3.asp?xx=3&w11...