'Expert' exposed in US and France for fake credentials, bogus interviews
16 September 2006, PARIS (AFP) - A man who for years appeared in both US and French media as an intelligence expert appears to have faked his academic and work credentials and made up interviews with people like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, according to several of his employers.
16 September 2006
PARIS (AFP) - A man who for years appeared in both US and French media as an intelligence expert appears to have faked his academic and work credentials and made up interviews with people like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, according to several of his employers.
Alexis Debat, who claims to hold a PhD from Sorbonne and to have worked for the French defence ministry, has frequently presented himself as an intelligence and terrorism expert.
As such he has served as a consultant to US television channel ABC, contributed to US and French political journals and worked for Washington think-tank the Nixon Center.
But French and US media have in recent days been scrambling to distance themselves from Debat after it was revealed that an interview with US presidential contender Barak Obama, published under his byline in influential French political journal Politique International, was bogus.
On Friday, head of the journal Patrick Wajman told AFP he had discovered that a series of interviews by Debat with other high-profile people like Bill Clinton and Bill Gates were also phoney. The publication has since yanked all interviews bearing Debat's name from its site.
The scandal erupted on September 5, when the French news website Rue 89 revealed that Obama had never given an interview to Debat.
"He has always told us that he was meeting these people in person," insisted Wajsman.
"Once cornered, he was forced to admit that he did not interview Obama himself. But even on September 10, he sent me a letter, assuring me that all the other interviews had been done live," he said.
Politique Internationale says it had been warned about Debat by the US television channel ABC.
According to spokesman Jeffrey Schneider the network fired its former expert in June, a month after one of its employees expressed doubts about the authenticity of his doctoral degree from the Sorbonne and the matter was further investigated.
This is not the first time doubt has been cast on Debat's credentials or the veracity of his interviews.
As far back as 2002, AFP reported that he had never been part of the French defence ministry, as he had claimed in an ABC report on French national Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted over the September 11 attacks in the United States.
And in 2005, the United Nations reportedly said it had failed to find any records of an interview published in Politique Internationale under Debat's byline with then secretary general Kofi Annan.
According to ABC, many of Debat's recent alleged interviewees, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former president Clinton, ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Obama also insist they have never met him.
"We have here a guy who was at the Nixon Center, worked for years for ABC News in Washington where everybody knows each other," Wasjman said. "And suddenly we discover that the guy is a major hoaxer."
Debat, who is based in Washington, admitted when contacted by AFP from Paris that the recent Obama interview bearing his byline had "turned out to be false."
He claimed however he had been misled by an intermediary, who had furnished him with the fake interview, but admitted that publishing the text under his byline "was a serious mistake."
He also denied all responsibility for the other forged interviews, blaming instead "the staff of Politique Internationale" who "had provided him the transcripts of these interviews" and asked him to put his byline on them.
"This is totally false -- from beginning to end," retorted Wajsman, arguing the controversy was "surreal".
Debat meanwhile insisted he was "cooperating 100 percent" with the investigation launched by ABC News, but said: "They have found nothing and will never find anything against me."
Subject: German news