Interview With Science Journalist Michael Guillen on Cloning Controversy

CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN
CNN, Jan. 9, 2003
http://www.cnn.com/
Aired January 9, 2003 – 07:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the man in the middle of that cloning controversy. When Clonaid first announced the birth of a human clone, science journalist Michael Guillen told the group’s founder that he would verify their claim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL GUILLEN, FREELANCE SCIENCE JOURNALIST: Dr. Boisselier has invited me to put her claim to the test, and I have accepted on behalf of the world’s press.

(END VIDEO CLIP)


HEMMER: Now, less than two weeks later, Guillen says the claims of a monumental event may be all an elaborate hoax.

Michael Guillen is here this morning on AMERICAN MORNING to talk to us about it.

Good morning to you.

GUILLEN: Good morning, Bill.


HEMMER: Is the lid entirely blown off this right now? Is there any doubt in your mind right now that this was a fix from the start?

GUILLEN: You know, I’m a scientist, and so, from the very beginning, Bill, all I wanted to do was to have my team of independent experts access to the alleged baby and the alleged mother, and we have been not given that access. So, for the time being, I have to accept the possibility that this is absolutely an elaborate hoax.

HEMMER: I see a bit of reservation still in your voice today. Are you still holding out the possibility that it may indeed be true…

GUILLEN: Well, Clonaid…

HEMMER: … that they may have cloned a human being?


GUILLEN: Clonaid made an announcement on Monday that the alleged mother is postponing the decision. They didn’t say that they are absolutely closing the door to our independent experts.

HEMMER: Well, what do you think? I mean, you’ve had contact with these people, you talked to them on Tuesday. Your reaction from them is what?

GUILLEN: My reaction is very simple, Bill, and I am absolutely stubborn about this, because I’m a scientist. Seeing is believing. We can sit around and we can speculate about whether we should believe them or whether we shouldn’t believe them, and that’s going to get us nowhere.

Listen, the whole point of my sticking my neck out to try to put this claim to the test and to find out one way or the other is so that we could determine whether they’re lying to us or whether they’re telling us the truth.

HEMMER: Well, why did you think they were telling the truth in the first place? Weren’t there a number of red flags here?

GUILLEN: Listen, the thing is a year ago, the National Academy of Sciences, Bill, held a meeting on human cloning, and they invited three of the groups that have been very public about their insistence they wanted to clone humans. There was Clonaid, Wasolea (ph), Zavos and Antanori (ph). So, the National Academy of Sciences itself understands the possibility that these people are so determined to do what they say they do, you’ve got to take them…

HEMMER: So, you were lending it a bit of credibility in the beginning.

GUILLEN: I mean, again, the National Academy of Sciences was…

(CROSSTALK)

HEMMER: You’re a Christian, right?

GUILLEN: I’m a devout Pentecostal Christian, the son of a preacher.

HEMMER: Do you believe in aliens?

GUILLEN: No, I don’t.

HEMMER: At any point in your life?

GUILLEN: No, I don’t.

HEMMER: Knowing the fact that this group does from the very beginning…

GUILLEN: Yes.

HEMMER: … didn’t that throw a red flag?

GUILLEN: Absolutely. Listen, Bill, I mean, when I first did the investigative reporting on the whole human cloning story, not just on Clonaid, but all of the other people who were saying they were going to clone human beings, my reaction was exactly the same thing that the world reacted on December 27. I said, my God, how can this true? Aliens, UFOs, it’s totally foreign to my own belief system. But then, as I started investigating the story more closely, what I found were a group of very determined individuals who are hell-bent on cloning human beings. So, get past that UFO-alien stuff, and you find people who are determined.

Here’s the bottom line.

HEMMER: Please.

GUILLEN: People who have watched me over the years know that I am willing to go to great lengths to get at the truth from the North Pole, the South Pole, the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and so forth. I am not risk-aversive. And in this case, I was willing to take the risk of even criticism from my own colleagues for becoming — from going from a reporter to a participant…

HEMMER: And you’ve taken a lot of criticism.

GUILLEN: Yes. From going — and I understand that, because I went from a reporter to a participant, but I didn’t know how any — how to do that any other way. How could I issue a challenge to this claim without becoming a participant? It was an unwilling thing, but I had — listen, this is an announcement that they made, a claim that’s not frivolous. This has got grave, ethical, morale consequences. We can either sit idly by and try to speculate, do we believe them or not believe them, when there are simple scientific tests that we can apply to find out the truth.

HEMMER: And so…

GUILLEN: Is this the biggest hoax…

(CROSSTALK)

HEMMER: And so far, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on that.

GUILLEN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HEMMER: All right, quickly here in the 30 seconds we have left.

GUILLEN: Yes.

HEMMER: “The New York Times” says you tried to sell your story at one point, even to CNN. True or not?

GUILLEN: I’m a freelance journalist, Bill, and when a freelance journalist gets a major story, as I did here, the first thing you do is you offer it up to various networks and you expect to get paid for your services. There’s nothing wrong with that. Freelance journalists do that all the time.

HEMMER: As we sit here today then, is there any reservation that you have right now, or at what point are you convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Clonaid and this group is lying from the outset?

GUILLEN: Seeing is believing. I don’t want excuses. I want my independent team to have access to that alleged couple, so that we can get samples.

HEMMER: Is it going to happen?

GUILLEN: No excuses. We want samples.

HEMMER: Is it going to happen?

GUILLEN: Your guess is as good as mine.

HEMMER: Michael Guillen, thanks for coming by.

GUILLEN: Thank you.

HEMMER: We’ve had a lot of rounds in the last week here.

GUILLEN: It’s worth it.

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