The Case of the 'Scammed' Former ABC News Consultant
Alexis Debat, a former French defense official who has been working as a consultant for ABC News since 9/11, hired a freelance journalist to conduct the interview with Obama. Debat now says he was "scammed" by the freelancer because the interview never took place.
But that's not Debat's only problem:
ABC demanded Debat's resignation in June after discovering that he did not have a PhD from the Sorbonne, as he claims on his resume.I'll bet that "second review" turns up some addtional problems for ABC and Mr. Debat.
"I was angry with him because it called into question, of course, everything he had done," said Brian Ross, ABC's chief investigative reporter, who worked closely with Debat. "He could never satisfy us that he had the PhD. . . . I was very upset."
ABC News checked out the stories Debat had worked on -- either as an on-air commentator, researcher or source -- and found no inaccuracies, network spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said. But in light of the Obama debacle, reported yesterday by ABC.com, a second review is underway.
But beyond the immediate problem, there is the question of the propriety of using a "consultant" as a reporter. Blogger-journalist Laura Rozen:
My own feeling as primarily a print world reporter, and this is just one part of the complicated matter, is that it is deeply problematic for a news organization to have a paid source/consultant to sometimes put on the reporter hat and act as the reporter too. (Indeed, I don't like the idea of paid sources at all, but it seems to be a frequent practice at TV news networks). Seriously, imagine if a New York Times reporter put an ex NSC or CIA operative on the payroll for about $2,000 to $4,000 a month as a source, cited in articles as a source, and then sometimes let him or her report news stories with a byline, without glaringly indicating to readers what was going on. But this is what ABC was doing with Debat. ABC must have known they were stretching the rules on this one. For instance, their consultant Richard Clarke is never presented as the reporter. But ABC changed the rules in the Debat case, presumably because he was bringing them such sexy scoops, that they loved flacking at the time. Now they insist the scoops were solid, but Debat misrepresented his credentials. They're blameless.This story may get juicier the more ABC digs into Debat's past product for the network.