Clinton, Pelosi, Greenspan, Powell, Bloomberg, Gates, Annan Also Say Interviews ‘Fakes’

Sep 13, 2007 11:37am

Former President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have added their names to the list of people who say they were the subjects of fake interviews published in a French foreign affairs journal under the name of Alexis Debat, a former ABC News consultant. "This guy is just sick," said Patrick Wajsman, the editor of the magazine, Politique Internationale, a prestigious publication that has been in business for 29 years. Wajsman said he was removing all articles with Debat’s byline from the magazine’s Web site. Yesterday, a spokesman for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said a supposed interview with Debat, published in the June 2007 edition of Politique Internationale, never occurred and was a fabrication. The allegation was first reported by another French magazine, Rue 89. Today, spokespeople for Clinton, Pelosi, Bloomberg, Gates, Greenspan, Powell and Annan told the Blotter on ABCNews.com that interviews of them under Debat’s name in the magazine also never took place. In fact, 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. "I told him that if he went ahead with it, we would denounce the interview as a fake," the U.N. official said. "This was not some obscure guy. This was the sitting secretary-general of the U.N., and the magazine was told it was a fake," he said. Despite that, 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. The U.N. official said a second supposed interview of Annan by Debat, posted earlier this year by Politique Internationale, was actually portions of a speech the secretary-general had given at Princeton University. The magazine editor, Wajsman, told ABCNews.com he thought the problem with the Annan interview, one of the first he submitted, was "maybe a technical one" or a misunderstanding. Wajsman said he had referred the matter to his lawyer for possible action against Debat. "I was a victim of this man. I had no reason to suspect someone like him could lie," Wajsman said. Asked why he continued to use Debat after the warning from the U.N., Wajsman said, "Everybody can be trusted once. He seemed to be well-connected in Washington, working for ABC and the Nixon center." Debat was a consultant on terrorism for ABC News for five years until this June, when ABC News officials demanded his resignation after he failed to satisfy questions raised about his academic credentials. ABC News says it is reviewing all stories in which Debat has played a role. "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, who resigned yesterday as a senior fellow on counterterrorism issues at the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank, told ABCNews.com his only mistake was to allow his name to be put on interviews done by others. Debat admitted he did not conduct interviews with Clinton, Pelosi, Bloomberg, Gates, Greenspan, Powell or Annan. "The magazine asked me to send questions. They got the answers, and then I edited and translated them and put my name on it," Debat said. The magazine editor, Wajsman, said, "That is an outright lie." Debat said he had "no memory" of being contacted by U.N. officials about the Annan interview. Debat told ABCNews.com yesterday the interview of Sen. Obama was not a fake but conducted for him by a freelance journalist named Rob Sherman in Chicago. Debat says he believes he was "scammed" by Sherman, who he says he paid $500 to conduct an interview with the senator. Repeated calls to a number for Sherman provided by Debat have gone unanswered, and today a reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago told ABC News the address for Sherman on a fax that Debat said he received from him does not exist. This post has been updated.

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