Top Journalist, Favorite of CNN, Outed as Fraud

A top German journalist who has been a favorite foreign correspondent on CNN has been outed as a career-long fraud who made up sources and invested situations for his “reporting.”

Claas Relotius is an award-winning journalist for German weekly Der Spiegel but now we know he has been fabricating stories for years.

According to The Guardian:

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Claas Relotius “made up stories and invented protagonists” in at least 14 out of 60 articles that appeared in the magazine’s print and online editions, Spiegel wrote, warning that other outlets could also be affected.

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Relotius, 33, resigned after admitting to the scam. He had written for the magazine for seven years and won numerous awards for his investigative journalism, including CNN Journalist of the Year in 2014.

Relotius has won many awards over his career, even winning the German Reporter of the Year just this month for a story about a young Syrian boy.

Alarm bells were rung by a colleague who worked with Relotius on a story about illegal aliens on the southern U.S. border. The collaborator raised serious questions about some of the sources Relotius claimed he used for the story.

The writer tracked down two of the sources that Relotius used extensively in his story but found that the sources said they never met or talked to Relotius.

Relotius had also lied about seeing a hand-painted sign that read “Mexicans Keep Out”, a subsequent investigation found.

Other fraudulent stories included one about a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, and one about NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

Der Spiegel posted a long apology saying it was “shocked” by the revelations. The weekly apologized to readers as well as anyone who was a target of the “fraudulent quotes, made up personal details or invented scenes at fictitious places.”

For his part, Relotius, who has written for a long list of European and American news outlets, apologized for his years of fraud saying, “I am sick and I need to get help.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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