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September 14, 2007

Multiple Layers, Etc.: ABC Reopens Investigation On Reporter Who Faked Interviews, After Previously Finding "They Absolutely Checked Out"

Not just a dinky little newsletter like TNR. ABCNews, which certainly has the resources to fact-check, apparently doesn't even bother to see if its reporters have even met the interview subjects they quote.

Now, in fairness, it seems these made-up interviews occurred after he'd been fired by ABCNews -- though he of course still worked in the media, publishing pieces in French journals and the Times of London. But they had previous suspicions about his stories and determined, after (TNR-like) "re-reporting" on his reports, claiming "they absolutely checked out" and giving his reportage a clean bill of health.

Obvious points:

1) They did not check before publication.


2) Given he simply invents interviews wholesale, it is extremely unlikely that everything he "reported" for ABCNews was true, and hence their claims that all his reports "absolutely checked out" seem rather naive. If someone isn't looking for evidence of a cheating spouse, and wants to believe that spouse is faithful, obviously they're not going to come with quite the level of skepticism needed to reveal the infidelity.

At any rate, here are your Intellectual Superiors, The Deciders, in action again. Proving once again why only they are qualified to evaluate information for newsworthiness, reliability, and "context."

ABC News said yesterday that it would begin a second investigation into more than five years of news reports that relied on information from a consultant, Alexis Debat, who has been revealed to be the author of faked interviews.

The interviews, published in a French journal, were said to have been done with prominent political figures, including former President Bill Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. [They deny the interviews -- ace.]

“We going at this again with a vengeance,” said Brian Ross, the ABC correspondent who was involved in most of the reports that used information provided by Mr. Debat, whom ABC hired in November 2001.

ABC fired Mr. Debat in June after discovering that his claims of having earned a doctorate from the Sorbonne were false. The network then investigated the reports Mr. Debat had participated in and found “they absolutely checked out,” Mr. Ross said.

Now, however, ABC is taking a further look into information Mr. Debat provided. Mr. Ross said ABC had dispatched an investigator to Pakistan to go over details of reports in which Mr. Debat provided information. At the same time, The Associated Press reported last night that it also was investigating three news reports that relied on Mr. Debat for information.

The renewed scrutiny has been driven by revelations about Mr. Debat after a French news Web site, Rue 89, reported this week that an interview supposedly with Senator Obama was entirely made up. Mr. Debat, who could not be reached last night, sent an e-mail message to ABC yesterday saying the allegations against him “are slanderous.”

He told The Washington Post Wednesday that an intermediary had spoken with Mr. Obama. But representatives for Mr. Obama denied that he spoke with anyone connected to Mr. Debat.

Subsequently, other figures whose interviews appeared under Mr. Debat’s byline in the French magazine Politique Internationale have come forward to say they never spoke to him. These included Mr. Clinton; Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman; Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft; and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Since his departure from ABC News in June, Mr. Debat has continued to work as a senior fellow for national security and terrorism at the Nixon Center in Washington. He was quoted as a knowledgeable source in an article in The Times of London this month, saying that American military forces were planning attacks that would demolish “the entire Iranian military.” He has also been quoted by many newspapers and news services.

Thanks to Chad.

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posted by Ace at 02:45 PM

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