Claas Relotius, a reporter and editor for the German magazine Der Spiegel, was revealed on Wednesday to have fabricated parts of numerous stories.
Relotius (shown above right) was known for winning CNN’s Journalist of the Year award in 2014.
After an internal investigation, Der Spiegel announced the reporter’s manipulations and warned that other publications could have been affected.
“Claas Relotius, a reporter and editor, falsified his articles on a grand scale and even invented characters, deceiving both readers and his colleagues,” the company said in a public statement.
“This has been uncovered as a result of tips, internal research and, ultimately, a comprehensive confession by the editor himself.”
Relotius admitted to the fabrications he made over the years.
“I am sick and I need to get help,” he reportedly told the magazine.
Colleagues became suspicious in November while he was working on a story about an American vigilante group at the border between the United States and Mexico.
A co-author on the story reported troubling behavior — and the publication began an investigation.
“Claas Relotius committed his deception intentionally, methodically and with criminal intent,” Der Spiegel revealed. “For example, he included individuals in his stories who he had never met or spoken to, telling their stories or quoting them. Instead, he would reveal, he based the depictions on other media or video recordings. By doing so, he created composite characters of people who actually did exist but whose stories Relotius had fabricated. He also made up dialogue and quotes.”
Relotius won CNN’s Journalist of the Year Award in 2014 in the best print category for a story called “Murderers are Carers,” which was published by Reportagen, a Swiss publication.
Relotius wrote some 60 articles that Der Spiegel published.
Fabrications include an interview with the parents of Colin Kaepernick — and interviews with a woman who claimed to have been a witness to death row executions.
Relotius also drew criticism for a story he wrote about Fergus Falls, Minnesota. He was accused of faking interviews and completely inventing people in his story about the town, which he painted as ignorant and obsessed with Donald Trump.
“What happened is beyond what I could have ever imagined: an article titled ‘Where they pray for Trump on Sundays,’ and endless pages of an insulting, if not hilarious, excuse for journalism,” wrote residents Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn in a piece for Medium.com.
They added, “There are only two things those writers seem to have concluded or are able to pitch to their editors — we are either backwards, living in the past and have our heads up our a****, or we’re like dumb, endearing animals that just need a little attention in order to keep us from eating the rest of the world alive.”
CNN has stripped Relotius of his accolades and attempted to explain its relationship with the writer on Twitter.
1) He never worked for CNN, never published by CNN.
2) Honored for a piece published by a Swiss magazine – 4+ yrs ago.
3) German award & unique to that market.
4) The award was sponsored by CNN but judged by an independent jury.
5) His award was revoked by that panel this AM.
— Matt Dornic (@mdornic) December 20, 2018