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Consultant Probed in Bogus Interview

Debat last appeared on ABC in May, in a "World News" piece by Ross about the possibility of Taliban sleeper cells planning attacks in the United States. In April, Debat appeared on "World News" to analyze a foiled terror plot in Saudi Arabia, and in a "Nightline" story on U.S. ties to a group mounting attacks inside Iran.

Ross said he asked Debat for a copy of his doctorate after a French official contacted the network through the embassy here. Debat said some French officials were "trying to take me down and discredit my reporting" because they were embarrassed that he was breaking stories on CIA covert operations.

Debat said he voluntarily resigned after failing to produce the PhD and that he is cooperating with the ABC inquiry. "I welcome the scrutiny," he said. "I stand by 100 percent of my reporting."

The bogus Obama interview was exposed this week by the French online magazine Rue 89, which called him a "strange character" and raised several questions about his credibility. The magazine noted that Debat has published interviews in Politique Internationale with Hillary Clinton, Alan Greenspan and Bill Gates.

Patrick Wajsman, the founder of Politique Internationale, was quoted as saying of the Obama hoax: "We are the first victims of this affair." The magazine has removed the piece from its Web site.

Debat said he had met the intermediary, Rob Sherman, in 2003, and that Sherman described himself as a former Chicago Tribune reporter. No one with that name has had a byline in the paper in recent decades.

Sherman told him he had access to Obama, Debat said. For a payment of $500, Debat said, Sherman provided a transcript of an interview, featuring Debat's questions, that he claimed was conducted in March.

Debat said he will fight to prove that he is not a fabricator. "My entire career is at stake," he said.


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