Journalist fakes interview with Bill Gates - and other celebrities?

, posted: 9-Aug-2006 11:16

Bill GatesFull marks for cheek, but zero for honesty to Norwegian freelance reporter Bjørn Benkow who was caught out making up an interview with Microsoft founder Bill Gates last week.

Benkow wrote a four page piece, after claiming he was on the same Munich to London flight as Gates in June this year. The story ran in the Norwegian Mann magazine in July, and the Swedish Aftonbladet evening paper, the largest one in that country, on July 9.

In the story, Benkow says that Gates never carries money, makes $1 bets with his wife, and spoke admiringly of Google.

However, Gates was not on that flight according to Microsoft's Norway and Sweden offices. Benkow however insists that the story is true, it seems, even though Mann has agreed to print a retraction. Aftonbladet at first stood behind Benkow, but now says they believe Microsoft's side of the story, and have printed an apology to Gates and the paper's readers. The Yahoo story linked to above isn't up to date about Aftonbladet.

Now Benkow's being hunted by other journalists, because he has had interviews with Oprah and Tom Cruise published in Sweden and there are doubts about those, too. Benkow is not returning calls, however, but Norwegian blogger Bjørn Smestad says he went and talked to Benkow at his flat and wrote about it on his blog.

Smestad asked what Benkow had been up to this summer, and was apparently spun some rather fantastic tales. According to Smestad, Benkow said he'd been to the US again, and had lunch with George Bush, whom he calls Ronald by mistake during the talk. Steve Jobs got a visit from Benkow too, ditto Formula One champion Michael Schumacher and Ariel Sharon. Oh, and Margaret Thatcher too.

Hilarious really, but not such fun perhaps for the publications that ran Benkow's stories.

Other related posts:
Twitter reporting
Speaking of prank calls
What PR people really think of journalists

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