"It has now become clear that Claas Relotius, 33 years old, one of DER SPIEGEL's best writers, victor of multiple awards and a journalistic idol of his generation, is neither a reporter nor a journalist", Spiegel online said of the matter. Other tainted articles that won or were nominated for awards involved Iraqi children kidnapped by ISIS and Syrian orphans forced into a Turkish sweatshop.
The subsequent investigation by Der Spiegel into Relotius' activities also uncovered that he fabricated details in another story including a claim that he had seen a sign in a USA town that read: "Mexicans keep out".
Spiegel's revelations echoed past instances of journalistic fraud by reporters elsewhere, including Jayson Blair of The New York Times, Christopher Newton of The Associated Press and Janet Cooke, whose 1980 piece about a child addicted to heroin won The Washington Post writer a Pulitzer Prize before it was exposed as untrue. According to a Q&A also published by the magazine Wednesday, Relotius identified 14 specific stories that included fictional dialogues, "character collages" and other incorrect or misleading details. The publication said the issue "marks a low point in the 70-year history of Der Spiegel".
Spiegel said on Wednesday that it would call on a commission to investigate the case and prevent repeats, but that "even with the best intentions they can't be entirely ruled out".
Claas Relotius, a reporter and editor, admitted to fabricating parts of at least 14 stories following the magazine's internal investigation.
On Monday, Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn published "Der Spiegel journalist messed with the wrong small town", an English-language debunking of "Where they pray for Trump on Sundays", a Relotius hit piece about their town of Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
Der Spiegel wrote that Relotius "committed large-scale journalistic fraud over several years".
"I am sick and I need to get help", he is quoted as saying by Der Spiegel.
The reporter also wrote for a string of other well-known outlets, including German newspapers taz, Welt and the Frankfurter Allgemeine's Sunday edition.
In his confession to his employer, he said: "It wasn't because of the next big thing".
Later that same year, Relotius reportedly invented a phone interview with Colin Kaepernick's parents for a profile of the football star's political activism.
"Claas Relotius acted with intent, methodically and with a high level of criminal energy", Der Spiegel said, adding that he had written about and cited people he had never met or spoken to.
Anderson and Jake Krohn, who co-authored the Medium piece, are receiving global praise for their rebuttal article exposing the fraudulent Der Spiegel story.