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BBC Issues An Apology After Hoax

Interviewee Not Dow Spokesman

Associated Press
Saturday, December 4, 2004; Page E03

LONDON, Dec. 3 -- The British Broadcasting Corp. apologized Friday for falling victim to a hoax in which a fake corporate spokesman claimed to take responsibility for a deadly cyanide gas leak at a Union Carbide Corp. subsidiary in India two decades ago.

The BBC World satellite television channel broadcast an interview Friday with a man identified as Jude Finisterra, who claimed to speak for Dow Chemical Corp.

The man said Dow now accepted responsibility for the Dec. 3, 1984, accident in Bhopal, which killed 10,000 people, and would pay billions of dollars in compensation.

Michigan-based Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide in 2001. Both Union Carbide and Dow have denied responsibility for the gas leak. In 1989, Union Carbide paid $470 million in a settlement with India's government.

Later, the man calling himself Finisterra told BBC radio that he was a member of the Yes Men, a group that has carried out hoaxes on businesses and public figures in the past.

The BBC retracted the initial report and said it had been the victim of an "elaborate deception." It said it had apologized to Dow Chemical and begun an inquiry.

The broadcaster said in a written statement that it had been contacted by a man who "during a series of phone calls, claimed that there would be a significant announcement to be made on behalf of the Dow Chemical company."

"He gave no further detail until the live interview, broadcast from the BBC's Paris bureau this morning," the BBC said.

The story was repeated on the BBC's domestic news channel and radio and picked up by other British media outlets.

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