Journalist tried to sell coverage rights to cloning story

Monday, January 6, 2003

NEW YORK -- The former ABC News science editor who said he would verify claims that the first human clone had been born tried months ago to sell exclusive coverage of the cloning to the major broadcast networks, according to a report published Sunday.

CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO and Fox Entertainment all were approached by freelance television journalist Michael Guillen, The New York Times reported.

At Fox, Guillen proposed a reality-based show on the cloning process, starting before the births, the Times said. He even offered to produce it and be the on-air host, but Fox rejected the proposal.

"We thought it was more appropriate for our news department and we referred it to them," Joe Earley, a Fox spokesman, told the Times.

Another network executive, who the Times did not identify, said Guillen proposed an exclusive documentary on the cloning at a price of more than $100,000. The executive said the offer would have given the network too little editorial control.

Guillen stepped into the cloning spotlight a week ago when he announced he would organize experts to independently test the claims of Clonaid, a company linked to a religious sect that believes life on Earth was created by extraterrestrials. The group claimed it had created the first cloned human, a girl it said was born to an American mother Dec. 26, but no DNA tests have yet verified the claim.

Brigitte Boisselier, Clonaid's chief executive, said Saturday that the DNA testing on the child had been delayed because the child's parents were concerned about legal ramifications if they came forward. She said they promised to tell her today whether they would allow the testing.

Boisselier also announced Saturday that a second child cloned by the group had been born to Dutch parents, though no tests have verified that.

Guillen, who said he was not being paid by Clonaid to arrange the testing, also pitched a story on the cloning process to the Times in May, saying he was the only reporter allowed to follow a couple trying to have a baby through cloning involving a Kentucky fertility specialist, the newspaper reported.

"During the better part of the past five years, I've cultivated close relationships with all the major human cloning scientists worldwide," Guillen wrote in his proposal, the Times said. "In fact, I know more about what's going on than any of the individual players; that's because they all confide in me."

Editors of the Times refused Guillen's offer, the newspaper said.

Guillen holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University and taught physics at Harvard before going into television journalism. He worked at ABC News from 1988 until last year. He has a written a few books, including "Five Equations That Changed the World: The Power and Poetry of Mathematics," which was named a book of the year by Publishers Weekly.

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