Source AP ©

Former ABC News consultant fakes interviews

Former ABC News consultant who apparently faked interviews claimed that he had worked as an official there.

The consultant, Alexis Debat, had previously been identified in stories by a range of media, including The Associated Press, as a former French Defense Ministry official or analyst. In the National Interest, an online publication he wrote for, identified him as a "former adviser to the French minister of Defense on trans-Atlantic affairs."

But the ministry said Friday that the only trace it could find of Debat in its records was a five-month internship at a ministry advisory office in 2000 and one month of military service.

Debat never served in an office directly under the defense minister and there was no sign that he worked as an official in other defense branches, said Col. Patrick Chanliau, a defense ministry press official.

"He was never a functionary," he said of Debat. "In 2000, he did five months as an intern at the Delegation for Strategic Affairs. There you go. That's all I have."

That office is under the direct authority of the defense minister, advising on geopolitical and strategic affairs.

Ministry interns are often young students "who come here to discover a profession or to complement a course they are following," he said. "To go from that to presenting oneself as an adviser to the minister ... There is no such thing as intern adviser to the minister."

ABC News fired Debat because he could not authenticate academic credentials. He is now at the center of a new dispute over apparently faked interviews with U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others.

Debat quit the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank, on Wednesday after Obama's representatives claimed an interview with the senator appearing under Debat's byline in the French magazine Politique Internationale never took place. The interview quoted the Democratic candidate as saying the Iraq war was "a defeat for America."

Debat acknowledged to The AP on Thursday that he never conducted any of the interviews published under his byline.

The AP quoted Debat in stories in 2001 and 2004 and is investigating whether the information that he provided was accurate.

He was identified as a terrorism consultant in a 2004 story about CIA Director George Tenet's resignation and quoted as saying Tenet had a reputation as a yes-man for U.S. President George W. Bush.

And he was quoted in 2001, identified as a former French Defense Ministry analyst, a former French Defense Ministry official and as a U.S. desk officer for the Defense Ministry until 2000.

In one story, he said the United States and France had increased their intelligence-sharing.

He was the main source for another story in which he said police had found a notebook with codes that could help decipher messages within Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

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