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Leaders say former ABC consultant faked interviews
Jason Rhyne
Published: Thursday September 13, 2007

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A former consultant for ABC News, Alexis Debat, is under fire for publishing an array of allegedly faked interviews with US and world leaders under his byline in a French magazine.

ABC's blog, The Blotter reports that spokespeople for the subjects of the fabricated interview pieces, which include "Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan," all say the sit-downs never happened.

The interviews were published in the French foreign affairs journal Politique Internationale.

Earlier today in the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz reported that Debat, who worked for ABC until this past June, had admitted to signing off on a fake interview with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, which appeared in the Summer 2007 edition of the same magazine.

"Today, spokespeople for Pelosi, Bloomberg, Gates, Greenspan and Annan told the Blotter on that interviews of them under Debat's name in the magazine also never took place," said chief ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross. "In fact," he added, "Stephane Dujarric, the deputy communications director for the U.N. secretary-general, said he called the fabricated interview to the attention of the editor of the magazine, Patrick Wajsman, in June 2005."

"Despite that," Ross writes, "Debat continued for the next two years to be cited as the author of interviews with a range of prominent U.S. public officials in [Politique Internationale]."

Debat previously told the Washington Post his faux Obama piece was written in March by a freelance reporter, who produced a dummy transcript of Obama's "responses" to Debat's questions, which included quotes from the senator saying Iraq was "already a defeat for America" and had "wasted thousands of lives."

"I was scammed," Debat said. "I was very, very stupid. I made a huge mistake in signing that article and not checking [the freelancer's] credentials."

The Blotter reported yesterday that the Obama campaign denied the interview ever took place. Rue 89, another French publication, was the first to question the veracity of the piece.

"ABC News officials say they asked for and received Debat's resignation after French government officials raised questions in May about a Ph.D. he claimed to have received from the Sorbonne," the Blotter reports, adding that ABC had employed Debat as a counterterrorism analyst.

"I was angry with him because it called into question, of course, everything he had done," Brian Ross, who worked with Debat at ABC, told Howard Kurtz in the Post. "He could never satisfy us that he had the [Ph.D.]...I was very upset."

Debat, however, maintains he resigned from ABC voluntarily, and said that an "administrative issue" prevented his Sorbonne degree from being registered correctly with the university, which he is suing.

Regarding the faked Obama interview, he told Kurtz that he will make every effort to clear his name. "My entire career is at stake," he said.