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Britain's 'Babyfather' Breeds Debate

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The media's role in the saga is being scrutinized, starting with tabloids that pay for scandal.

The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling newspaper, first reported the story Friday, publishing the photo of Alfie and baby Maisie snoozing in her red-and-white-striped sleeper.

Many British papers routinely pay for news stories, and there were reports that the Sun paid up to 25,000 pounds, or about $35,000, for the photos and story.

Alfie's parents have since hired public relations specialist Max Clifford to help sell their story to other papers, magazines, television programs and moviemakers.

That relationship was on quirky display Sunday when Alfie's father, Dennis Patten, appeared outside the home of his estranged wife, where Alfie lives. He wore a red rubber devil mask with horns and held up a bright yellow sign that said: "No comment. Ring Max."

Critics are wondering about the effects of a celebrity-obsessed culture in which youngsters are taught to worship fame, and celebrity is a function of airtime rather than talent.

Ferrari spoke with Clifford on his radio program Monday, asking him about fears expressed by some that all the publicity would encourage other children to think of baby-making as a cheap ticket to fame and fortune.

"Of course it's a danger," Clifford said.

He said the more pressing immediate problem was to get a DNA paternity test, after publication of interviews over the weekend with two other boys, ages 14 and 16, who said they thought they, or a number of their friends, could also be Maisie's father.

"Little Alfie is convinced he's the father," Clifford said. "We need to just make sure everything is 100 percent as they think it is."

On Monday, the Sun published photos of Chantelle wearing her school uniform holding baby Maisie, alongside photos of the two other teens who claim to have slept with her. In an accompanying story, Chantelle professed her love for Alfie and said she had never had sex with anyone else.

Phil Hall, a former editor of the News of the World tabloid, told the Independent newspaper that Alfie and Chantelle stood to earn perhaps 500,000 pounds (about $720,000 today) in the coming years.

"There would be a documentary, pictures of the child's first birthday, her first day at school when her father will possibly still be in school," Hall said.

"Nobody wants to set up Alfie as a role model, or to celebrate what's happened," he said. "At the same time, people have a lot of sympathy with him. It's a moral dilemma, but this is a story that is worthy of national debate."


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