Journalist who mocked Trump supporters in fabricated story admits: ‘I’m sick’
German magazine Der Spiegel has fired one of its top journalists after it discovered he had fabricated more than a dozen stories in recent years, including an article about Trump supporters in a small Minnesota town.
“I’m sick and I need to get help,” Claas Relotius, who was CNN International’s Journalist of the Year, told Der Spiegel. The fabrications were discovered after a colleague working with Relotius on a story about the U.S.-Mexico border raised suspicions about his reporting.
One of the made up stories, “ In a small town,” was billed as “a month with the people who pray for Trump on Sundays” and described Fergus Falls, Minnesota, as a typical rural town that helped propel President Trump to the White House in 2016 – though he just fell short in Minnesota.
Relotius reported false information about several of the town’s residents — or completely made up people — including that the city administrator did not want a female president and was a virgin, that a restaurant waitress with kidney disease was struggling to afford treatment under Obamacare, and that local students visiting New York visited Trump Tower instead of the Statue of Liberty.
Two residents of Fergus Falls, Michele Anderson, who notes she’s a “die-hard liberal,” and Jake Krohn, pushed back on 11 of the fabrications in a blog post Wednesday.
Der Spiegel listed other fabrications made in the article, such a welcome sign for the town that said, “Mexicans Keep Out,” that never existed.
“He invented grotesque lies and reported, for example, that the students at the John F. Kennedy high school drew their role models for the American dream as follows: ‘They did not draw a single picture of a woman,’ Relotius wrote. ‘One class drew Barack Obama, two drew John D. Rockefeller. Most of them drew Donald Trump.’ All of this is pure fiction. Every single bit is concocted bunk,” the magazine said.
Other fabrications included easily verifiable assertions, including that the film “American Sniper,” two years old at the time of Relotius’ reporting, was still running at the town’s theater to sold-out crowds and a description of the view from a downtown cafe, an establishment that lacks windows.
Relotius, who was hired by Der Speigel in 2011, received several awards from CNN for his work. The company said it is stripping Relotius of those awards. He wrote about 60 articles for the magazine and website before he was fired this week.