In his piece on the Alexis Debat controversy — the ABC consultant and French counterterrorism expert who apparently faked several interviews with political figures and luminaries such as Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Gates, Alan Greenspan, Michael Bloomberg oh and Kofi Annan — the WP‘s Howard Kurtz failed to contact Pascal Riche, who broke this story of the faked interviews. Kurtz’s piece seemed a bit thinly reported, featuring mostly Debat saying he was scammed, and Brian Ross saying he was scammed. What about the substance? Perhaps he was in a hurry.
But there’s much substantive to consider. For instance, among other details, this is a guy telling the world media from several respected perches that there’s a three day blitz planned to bomb Iran. It’s not an uninteresting question, whether the information is solid, or is embellished, or is fabricated. It certainly creates a big echo, and is an interesting example of how misinformation or even disinformation can work. Kurtz didn’t for instance, raise the question I raised here, which is blindingly obvious: did ABC bend the rules by paying a source who also served as their reporter while having a full time appointment elsewhere, smoothing over any complications by calling him an all purpose “consultant”? How much did Brian Ross approve the unusual arrangement and independently verify the information Debat was bringing from the dark corners of Pakistan? IF, and I emphasize if, Debat faked interviews for a French journal, what was to keep him from faking interviews that informed multiple stories for ABC? I fiind it implausible that ABC has independently re-reported all that stuff so quickly and determined it’s kosher.
I also had an amusing, if slightly surreal, experience interviewing the real Rob Sherman – a Chicago radio talk show host – who has the same name and rough geographic location as the person who Debat claims conducted an interview with Barack Obama for him. You will not be surprised to learn, perhaps, that the real Rob Sherman says he has never heard of Debat, although he has interviewed Obama. One thing I am learning — there’s a bit of truth in many of the apparent fabrications.