Brazilian journalist Mario Sergio Conti was duped by a look-a-like soccer coach into publishing fake quotes.
Conti published an interview with Brazil soccer coach Luiz Felipe Scolari talking about the World Cup and player Neymar.
But, he really interviewed a man named Wladimir Palomo, who looks a lot like Scolari. The fake interview was published in two Brazilian newspapers, Folha de S. Paolo and O Globo.
Conti thought he happened on the interview with Scolari by chance when he ended up sitting next to him on a flight to Sao Paolo, the BBC reported. But, it was the look-a-like, Palomo, who later said in an interview with the BBC that he was heading to Brazil to “take part in a TV comedy programme — where naturally, he plays Scolari.”
The supposedly unwitting interviewee Palomo told iMediaEthics that he never identified himself as the soccer coach during the friendly conversation with Conti on an airplane. He said Conti didn’t tell him he was a journalist until after the conversation.
Palomo added, “I just would like to say that I didn’t lie to him or made him foolish. I was being me all the time.”
Both news outlets that ran the interview have since apologized for the incorrect quotes.
So how did Conti end up interviewing a look-a-like and not the real deal?
iMediaEthics wrote to Palomo. His niece, Marcela Palomo, responded on his behalf as she is handling his media requests.
According to Palomo, Conti only identified himself as a journalist after they spoke on the plane.
“It was a common conversation between two people who share seats in a plane. By the end of the flight, he identified himself as a journalist. I gave him my card saying that I was Felipe Scolari look alike. Then he said he would contact me to have an interview, I just said ‘Ok then. tks’. ”
Palomo was shocked after he saw his airplane conversation was published in two newspapers.
“Because I didn’t give him any interview,” Palomo’s e-mail said. “We were chatting. And so far, I thought he had understood I was Felipão look alike.”
Palomo said he never introduced himself as the soccer coach, and even if that hadn’t been enough he gave Conti his business card.
He described the past week as “surreal” as the media has swarmed him for interviews. “I was in every kind of media, not only in Brazil. Argentina, Germany, even Vietnam!
“For me, we were just chatting and I gave him my personal opinion about the tournament and the national team, as anyone would. Everyone is a coach in Brazil during the World Cup.”
Palomo even said he gave Conti a business card identifying him as “Wladimir Palomo – Scolari look-a-like.”
Conti claimed he thought the business card was a prank. “According to the columnist, he thought the real coach was joking. Sadly for such a well-regarded journalist, he was not,” the BBC reported.
Conti further excused his being duped by claiming his bogus interview didn’t hurt anyone.
“It was a mistake,” Conti is quoted as saying. “I really thought he was Felipao. But there was no bad faith involved. At least this mistake has not harmed anyone, it has not influenced the elections or hit the stock markets.”
The Globe has since published a June 19 correction, “Correction: Scolari did not speak to the Globe columnist.”
The correction states, according to a Google Translate:
“RIO – Contrary to what was published on the Globe [O Globo] site, the coach of Brazil, Luiz Felipe Scolari, has not spoken with columnist Mario Sergio Conti. Who said the journalist was a look-alike coach, Vladimir Palomo. Scolari was not on a flight from Rio to São Paulo. He spent the day in Fortaleza.
“The text was also published by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, which is Conti columnist. Mario Sergio Conti apologizes to Scolari, the Palomo and readers for the confusion.”
The other newspaper that published the fake interview, Folha, posted the following notice at the bottom of the original article. According to Google Translate, the correction admits Conti interviewed Palomo, not Scolari. “Mario Sergio Conti apologizes to Scolari, the Palomo and readers for the confusion.” Folha also explained at the top of the article how Conti was duped.
iMediaEthics has written to Folha‘s ombudsman to ask for for more information about this incident and if Conti had any response to Palomo’s claims that he didn’t identify himself as a journalist until after the conversation.
UPDATE: 2:09PM: Clarified timing of when Palomo found out he was quoted as the real Brazilian soccer coach.