Obama Claims Interview in French Magazine Faked

By Brian Ross And Justin Rood

Sep 12, 2007 2:33pm

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., says an interview he supposedly gave to a French magazine, calling the war in Iraq a "defeat," is a fabrication. An Obama campaign spokesperson says the interview never took place. The interview appears under the byline of Alexis Debat, a senior fellow for national security and terrorism at the Nixon Center and a former ABC News consultant. ABC News officials say Debat was asked to resign in June after questions were raised by the French government about his academic credentials. The Obama interview appeared in the summer 2007 edition of Politique Internationale. Questions about the interview were first raised this week in another French magazine, Rue 89. The editor of Politique Internationale says the article has been removed from the magazine’s Web site. "If it is a fake, it is a fake," said Patrick Wajsman, the founder and director of Politique Internationale, told ABCNews.com. "We cannot send the police after every interviewer," he said. Debat admits he did not interview Obama. He says he submitted questions to Obama through a Chicago freelance reporter, Rob Sherman, "and made the mistake of publishing it under my name." Sen. Obama’s spokesperson, Ben LaBolt, say there is no record that anyone by that name interviewed Obama. "We’re not aware of this being set up," said LaBolt. Debat told ABCNews.com he was "scammed" by the freelance reporter who Debat says provided him with a transcript of an interview supposedly conducted in March. "Rob Sherman asked me to remove his name from the interview, and my mistake was to put my name on it," Debat told ABCNews.com. Sherman has not responded to questions sent to him by ABCNews.com. 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. "We investigated and could not establish his academic credentials," said ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey Schneider. Schneider said ABC News began a review of all of his work as a consultant but that so far, "our initial review has found that the information he provided ABC News checked out and was backed up by other sources." Debat, a one-time desk officer in the French Ministry of Defense who appeared frequently on French TV after the 9/ll attacks, was hired as an ABC News consultant in late 2001. He has appeared on ABC News as a counterterrorism analyst during coverage of Zacarias Moussaoui, the London bombings and the search for al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. Debat appeared April 3 as one of several sources in an ABC News report about Iranian dissident groups carrying out attacks inside Iran. In a statement to ABC News, Debat said he plans to take legal action against Rue 89, which claimed Debat had a "reputation for making up stories." "That is false and slanderous, and I plan to sue," Debat said. "I have not once made up stories or been suspected of coming forward with false or even weak information," he said. Debat called the issue of his Sorbonne Ph.D. "an administrative problem" he said he was sorting out "through legal means." Debat says his thesis was completed in 1999 and is registered at the Sorbonne.

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