GW suspended a senior fellow in its Department of Homeland Security Institute this month following allegations that he fabricated a doctorate degree and interviews with prominent politicians.
“Once we found out about the serious allegations concerning his professional endeavors, we moved immediately to suspend his senior fellowship,” said Frank Cilluffo, director and associate vice president for Homeland Security.
On Sept. 5, the French Web site Rue 89 accused Alexis Debat of fabricating interviews with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for the French journal Politique Internacional. The University suspended Debat from his position eight days later. He has also resigned from his position as a senior fellow on counterterrorism issues at the Nixon Center think tank.
“It is normal that they would distance themselves from me,” Debat said. “I have nothing but respect for GW, and I don’t blame them for wanting to allow me to deal with this independently.”
Former President Bill Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have also come forward to say their interviews for the journal were fabricated.
Debat claimed Patrick Wajsman, editor of Politique Internacional, gave him quotes from a variety of speeches by public figures. Wajsman told him they were interviews, and asked him to translate them and write the stories.
Debat also said he received a fabricated interview with Obama from Rob Sherman, the reporter who Debat is accused of paying to interview Obama.
He is suing both of these men on the grounds of fraud.
“The only mistake I made was trusting the wrong people,” Debat said.
A former consultant for ABC, Debat was fired in June for falsely claiming he had a doctorate from the Sorbonne.
He told The Hatchet he attended the Sorbonne, but there were complications concerning his actual diploma.
“I found that there is an administrative problem with my PhD at La Sorbonne. It is up in the air and a legal matter that I cannot comment further on,” Debat said.
University officials said they selected Debat for a senior fellow position in a task force designed to re-examine U.S. policies on issues including counter terrorism, counter narcotics and counter insurgency because of his field experience in Afghanistan.
Jan Lane, deputy director of GW Homeland Security Policy Institute, said the institute’s policies on taking on senior fellows are relatively lax, as they are not paid.
The task force never mobilized, and Debat did not conduct research for GW.
ABC is now conducting a thorough investigation of all stories in which he was involved while he was a consultant. Debat said he is cooperating with ABC’s investigation and has provided them with all of his sources and contact information for his stories, and so far no discrepancies have been found.
Michael Doyle, a journalism professor at GW, said the accusations against Debat threaten the integrity of his profession.
“Every time an episode like this occurs, it only blemishes the credibility of every other reporter,” he wrote in an e-mail. “What Debat is accused of doing is, fortunately, pretty uncommon. Nonetheless, his actions can now be used to call into question the work of other reporters.