Award-Winning German Reporter Fired For Fabricating Stories 'On A Grand Scale'

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Claas Relotius, 33, who has since been fired from the German news magazine Der Spiegel, admitted to making up more than a dozen stories, including the one he wrote a year ago on Fergus Falls after President Donald Trump's inauguration, according to Der Spiegel.

Among them, "The Last Witness", about an American who allegedly travels to an execution as a witness, "Lion Children", about two Iraqi children who have been kidnapped and reeducated by the Islamic State, and "Number 440", a feature about alleged prisoners at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He has written some 60 articles for the magazine, many of which he has said are accurate. The magazine says that after he was confronted with evidence and confessed, Relotius said, "I am sick and need to get help".

The magazine said the incident marks "a low point in the 70-year history of Der Spiegel". It also acknowledged that although Relotius had admitted to some untruths, the full extent of his deception might not yet be known. Relotius also worked for other media organizations in Germany and overseas.

Earlier this month, he secured the German "Reporter Preis" (Reporter of the Year) for his story about a young Syrian boy, which the jurors praised for its "lightness, poetry and relevance".

"It wasn't because of the next big thing".

The piece that proved to be his "undoing" and exposed seven years of "large scale journalistic fraud" was his report on "Jaeger's Border", which focused on a group in Arizona conducting patrols along the border to Mexico.

"During his time as a freelance journalist, his work got published by other media including Cicero, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung am Sonntag, the Financial Times Deutschland, Die Tageszeitung, Die Welt, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, Weltwoche, Zeit Online and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung", the magazine said.

"The pressure not to fail became bigger the more successful I became", he said, according to Der Spiegel.

Further fabrications by Relotius included a phone interview with the parents of American football player Colin Kaepernick, who protested police brutality by kneeling during the pre-game singing of the national anthem, Spiegel said. "[His] colleagues are astounded and sad ... the affair feels like a death in the family". "For three to four weeks Moreno went through hell because colleagues and those senior to him did not want to believe his accusations at first", Der Spiegel wrote in an apology to its readers. Meanwhile, the magazine's management has set up a special investigative commission consisting of what it calls "experienced internal and external persons" to look through all of the journalist's pieces and prepare recommendations to improve "safety mechanisms".

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