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Reporter faked Gates interview, Microsoft says

Microsoft Corp. said an interview printed in the Norwegian magazine Mann and top-selling Swedish tabloid daily Aftonbladet was “totally fake.”  The editor of Mann said they are printing a retraction in the next issue while Aftonbladet said it is convinced interview did take place.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday a Norwegian journalist fabricated an interview with Bill Gates.

The interview, printed in the Norwegian magazine Mann and top-selling Swedish tabloid daily Aftonbladet, was “totally fake,” said Eirik Lae Solberg, spokesman for Microsoft Norway.

(MSNBC.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal News.)

In the four-page interview entitled “Big Bill,” author Bjoern Benkow claimed he spoke to Gates during a two-hour commercial flight in Europe.

Gates was quoted as saying in the article that he never carries more than a “dime” in his pocket and that he makes $1 bets with his wife.

He also purportedly talked openly about competition with search engine Google and Europe’s antitrust actions against the software company. The article, which was in Norwegian, quoted Gates as saying, “Google have been smart.”

According to Solberg, Gates’ personal assistant Craig Beilinson informed Microsoft Norway that the interview never took place and that Gates did not fly in a commercial carrier at the time the journalist allegedly met him.

Benkow, who has also had interviews with Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey published in Swedish media, was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier, he told Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv that the piece was real.

The editor of Mann, Knut Christian Moeng, said the monthly is printing a retraction in its August issue, apologizing for the article.

Solberg said Microsoft Norway would be “pleased” with the apology.

But Olof Brundin, a spokesman for Aftonbladet, said the newspaper was convinced the interview had taken place.

“This is a very respected reporter ... with a very good record,” Brundin said. “There is no reason whatsoever for us to doubt him.”