German journalist Claas Relotius, a reporter and editor for German news outlet Der Spiegel is admitting that he made up key details in a story about a Minnesota town he visited with a “Mexicans Keep Out” sign.
The article from Der Speigel says Relotius drew fabrication suspicions from a colleague when a story they worked on together contained falsifications. Der Speigel says, “After initially denying the allegations, Relotius finally confessed at the end of last week after the story emerged that he invented entire passages in a number of other articles.”
According to The Hill, the “Mexicans Keep Out” sign does not even exist in the town and Speigel made up quotes, people and situations he did not even observe.
Relotius wrote that there was a sign by the city limits reading “Mexicans Keep Out.” He also claimed that City Administrator Andrew Bremseth hosted a “Game of Thrones” quiz night and wore a pistol holstered to his belt, both of which Bremseth says are untrue.
“There’s so little in the story that’s factual,” Bremseth told the Tribune. He said Relotius never responded when Bremseth pointed out the factual inaccuracies to him.
“There were people he totally created,” Bremseth said.
“It’s a small town,” longtime Fergus Falls resident Michele Anderson told the paper. “A lot of us would have known about it,” she added, referring to the sign Relotius referred to.
The mayor of the small Minnesota town reacted by saying to Fox News:
“Relotius’ idea of the rural community did not fit with reality, so he “decided to make it up.”
“I think it was to support a narrative in his mind and many people’s minds that rural communities are backwards. They are dying,” he explained, recalling that when he met Relotius he could tell the reporter had “preconceived notions” about Fergus Falls.
“Of course … I couldn’t conceive that he would go and just make it up. I thought ‘hey, here is a perfect opportunity to tell our story and to tell the story of many rural communities that are thriving.’ That there’s so many positive things happening. But he didn’t want to hear that,” said Schierer.
The German news outlet says at least fourteen other stories Relotius wrote contained false information, including some that have won journalism awards like “The last witness” about an American who allegedly travels to an execution as a witness. The “Lion Children,” about two Iraqi children who have been kidnapped and re-educated by the Islamic State. And “Number 440,” a story about alleged prisoners at Guantanamo.”
Der Speigal has fired Relotius and plans to conduct an internal investigation into the matter.