BOB GARFIELD: When ABC News learned of Debat's bogus Ph.D. last May, the network swiftly fired him. It also scrutinized the stories on which Debat had served as a source but did not find any inaccuracies. This week, in response to news that Debat faked not just his credentials but entire interviews, ABC has opened a second, more extensive investigation into all the stories he touched.
But unlike The New York Times after Jayson Blair, or USA Today after Jack Kelley, ABC is working internally and has no plans for an outside investigation.
Jeffrey Schneider is senior vice president and spokesman for ABC News. He says his company is determined to get to the bottom of the Debat problem. JEFFREY SCHNEIDER: I could understand why people might want a third party to look at these things and it's impossible for me at this point to say whether that would be something that could happen. I do, however, have great confidence in our ability to, I think, answer these questions to the satisfaction of ourselves and to our audience. BOB GARFIELD: Now other news organizations, when they discover that they have a liar in their ranks, there at some point tends to be disclosure to the audience. In what form has your disclosure taken place? JEFFREY SCHNEIDER: At the time that we demanded his resignation, you know, we did not, you know, ring the bell loudly. Obviously against the backdrop of these outright fabrications you would say, you know, how could ABC not have stood up and said very loudly, you know, this guy lied on his resume?
All I can tell you is at the time we felt that demanding his resignation and getting it was appropriate. BOB GARFIELD: There's one particularly sensitive story I want to ask you about in which Debat played a role, and that was the report that Pakistani militants who had been involved in cross-border skirmishes in Iran had been, quote, "secretly encouraged and advised by American officials," a story that suggests that, at least by one or two degrees of separation, the United States is [LAUGHS] involved in trying to overthrow a government. JEFFREY SCHNEIDER: You know, that is a story that we worked on for several months - five or six months is my understanding. Debat's information was a piece of that story but by no means did the story stand on Debat's information. We have very good sources, both in European and U.S. intelligence and governments.
You know, at the end of the day we want to be the first to report that there's a problem with that story. So far, through the two reviews we've done, we don't find that problem, but we sure are looking hard. BOB GARFIELD: You know, in the end, Jeffrey, I suppose it's very hard for any news organization to protect itself against a liar. What will you do in the future in the hiring of consultants, and maybe just reporters and producers as well, to make sure that their resumes actually hold up and that they are what they claim to be? JEFFREY SCHNEIDER: You're right, Bob. If somebody is willing to lie to your face, that does create a difficult situation. It's also complicated by the fact that time and again he had good information.
And not only did he have good information, occasionally he would stand in the way of our other reporting, saying, you know, I know that's not the case, don't report that.
Particularly there was an issue of this terrorist Rahman being taken into custody, supposedly, and Debat waved us off the story. And some weeks later, after we had actually reported that this guy was in custody, it became clear that he was not in custody. You know, he clearly did lie and was a liar about many things, and yet he did provide solid information that other sources were happy to confirm.
It's really appalling and tragic and, you know, at the same time it's a pretty interesting story that we want to get to the bottom of. BOB GARFIELD: All right, Jeffrey. Thanks again. JEFFREY SCHNEIDER: Thanks a lot, Bob. Take care. BOB GARFIELD: Jeffrey Schneider is the senior vice president and spokesman for ABC News.