Haile Gebrselassie And Jos Hermens Take To Ethiopian National TV To Deny New York Times Story Saying Gebrselassie's Phone Had Been Tapped

By LetsRun.com
November 17, 2010

Thursday update at 11:58 am EST: This story has been updated to include three translations of the television interview which appear at the end of to the story.

Update: 4:55 pm eastern 11/18: The New York Times has confirmed that it stands behind its original story.

The Haile Gebrselassie retirement story continues to make news and it's only getting stranger and stranger. One day after a story appeared in the New York Times on Gebselassie's un-retirement in which it was said that Gebrselassie was under intense political pressure in his native Ethiopia and his phones had been tapped, Gebrselassie and his manager Jos Hermens appeared on national television in Ethiopia and ripped the veracity of the story that appeared in the New York Times.

Let us give you a little background on the story. On Sunday, Gebrselassie un-retired and this was covered in Tuesday's New York Times in a story where reporter Jeré Longman wrote in great depth about some of the political pressures Gebrselassie had been facing in his homeland.

Longman wrote:

    Hermens also suggested that Gebrselassie’s emotional decision to retire might have stemmed in part from political pressure he was feeling in Ethiopia. His phone has been tapped by government officials and he has faced some sort of blackmail attempt, Hermens said of his client.

Additionally, Longman talked about how the Prime Minister's wife and her associates were trying to force business partnerships on Gebrselassie.

Well, apparently the story in the New York Times didn't go over well in Ethiopia and on Wednesday, Hermens and Gebrselassie appeared on national televsion in Ethiopia and the two of them ripped the story.

A replay of the Gebrselassie and Hermens appearance on Ethiopian TV can be viewed on youtube. We also have embedded it below, but it's best viewed at the youtube site as the video is primarily in Amharic (although there is enough English that one can hear Hermens denying the accuracy of the story in English) and the youtube site includes an English description of the video as provided by Ethiopian.TV. Their description of the interview quotes Hermens as saying:

    "I did not say that (Haile's phone was tapped) and I did not suggest any thing like that at all."

The description also says that "Haile Gebrselassie said it is unfortunate a media like The New York Times published these kinds of fabricated stories."

Update: Thursday 4:55 pm eastern. The New York Times stands behind its story. They said to us, "The New York Times stands by its story.  Jeré reported what he was told. We reported the story correctly." More info here. Our story as originally written continues below.

LetsRun.com contacted the New York Times around 10:30 pm EST on Wednesday night to try to get Jeré Longman's response to the Hermens statement. Longman wasn't in the office and the unidentified employee in the Sports Department who answered the phone told us to call back in the morning as he wasn't going to call him this late at home on this matter. On an aside, we imagine if this story was about a US sports star, the reaction would be different. To us, this is a huge story as it involves possible political intimidation of a world record holder.

If Hermens did tell the New York Times Haile's phones were tapped, then it appears he has quickly been forced to deny it on national televsion in Ethiopia. If he didn't say it, then it's pretty bad reporting by arguably the US's most famous newspaper.

Since LetsRun.com can say that we had heard previously from other sources that Haile indeed was facing political pressure in Ethiopia, it certainly wouldn't surprise us if it comes out if Hermens did indeed say it to the Times but has been forced to recant.

Hopefully, the truth will come out on Thursday.

Update: Thursday 4:55 pm eastern. The New York Times stands behind its story. They said to us, "The New York Times stands by its story.  Jeré reported what he was told. We reported the story correctly." More info here.

Thursday Update: LetsRun.com had two different people translate the video interview above to try to let you know what it says. The first translation comes from an Ethiopian while the second (which appears in blue) comes from an Ethiopian-American. Given the sensitive political nature of the matter, their names are being with held. Additionally, someone has added English subtitles to the video and re-uploaded it to youtube here and we've re-typed that translation and it appears third in Italics below. We do want to state that the person who wrote us to let us know about the new youtube video with subtitles included a note which included the following accusation/statement:


Just for the record, the New York Times story used a website called "Ethiopian Review" for its story. This website is anti-government, and is sponsored by the government of Eritrea, and posts false and made up stories. In the Ethiopian community, the website is known as "Eritrean Review." Please watch the other video under the same author to see the many lies the website had posted before.

(00:00 – 00:25)
Now we pass to our sport news.
Haile Gebrselassie and his manager Jos Hermens stated that the report published by the New York Times regarding the reason behind the athlete’s decision for retiring is baseless and false. 
Both Haile and Jos Hermens said that the news papers report that says “Haile decided to stop running because of political pressure” is completely false. For the details here is Fikir Yilikal.

We move on to Sports news.
Athlete Haile Gebre Sellassie  and his manager Jose Hermens have stated that the report published in the  ewspaper by the name ofNew York Times’ about him is just base. Both Haile and Jos Hermens said that the news papers report that says “Haile decided to stop running because of political pressure” is absolutely false.
Fikir Yilikal has more:

Now the sport report
Haile Gebrselassie and his manager Jose Hermens, said the news article reported by the New York Times, about athlete Haile Gebrselassie is completed fabricated and full of false allegations.
Both Haile and his manager have said the paper's report that there was political pressure behind Haile's retirement was completely false. More from our reporter.

(00:30 – 00:45) Reporter:
The news of Haile’s retirement from the sports world has got many people’s attention. A number of media outlets reported the news quoting the athlete himself.
Haile is saying even today that he made the emotional decision because of the great pain he has felt of his legs.

News of Haile Gebrsellasie’s retirement had drawn the attention of many observers. Quoting the long distance running celebrity himself, several international media outlets had reported that due to the ailment he was faced with he would not run again Even today, Haile states, “It was the extreme pain that forced me to make a decision that was emotional.”  

Citing the world record holder's own words, many media outlets reported the runner had retired from running.
My sudden and emotional retirement was due to injury I suffered says Haile/

(00:46 – 1:21) Haile:

(Haile): “I felt a heavy pain in my knee that I have never expected. One day before the New York marathon, I have gone through a treatment that included draining fluid from my knee and that pain in my knee forced me not to finish the race in New York marathon.  If my knee is bothering me this much after a lot of effort and preparation, I said to myself, why not I stop running now.”

“I was faced with something that I never expected in my knee. … I mean, a day before the race,  it had become so bad that I had to have fluid drained from my knee…. And it forced me to leave the race in New York. So, if after all this effort and hard work in preparation, if my leg is giving me so much trouble, why don’t I quit running?”

(Haile) :"I didn't expect this. In fact a few days earlier, before the race, I had fluids removed from my knee and this injury to my knee, forced me to withdraw from the race. So I after all the preparation and hard work, my knee is still bothering me very much, so I said why don't I stop running.

 (01:22 – 01:44) Reporter:
However, the New York Times news paper on November 15, 2010 published a report saying that haile stopped running due to political pressure quoting the athlete’s manager Jos Hermens as the source of this information.
On the contrary, the athlete and his manager Jos Hermens, on an exclusive interview with the Ethiopian Radio and Television, stated the report is totally false and baseless. 

However, the New York Times report published on November 15, stated that Haile stopped running due to political pressure. The report states that it obtained its information from Haille Gebrselassie’s manager, Jos Hermens.
Yet, according to the response to Ethiopian Radio and Television,  that athlete Haile and his manager Jos Hermens with whom the newspaper claims to have spoken gave, described the report as baseless and full of lies.

But the New York Times report on Nov. 15, 2010, said the runner was forced to stop running due to political pressure. The report cites Haile's manager as on its sources for the story.
Both Haile and his manager have told us, this report is absolutely false and baseless.

(1:45-2:04) Haile:
(Haile): “I have seen the report, you know, they used it to promote their own agenda using another person’s story as a cover. In my opinion, this kind of trash report is going to damage the reputation of a news paper as big as the New York Times.

I saw the report. You know, they are using someone else’s story to promote their own agenda. You know, this kind of reporting is totally base. It diminishes the enormous standing of  The New York Times as a paper, in my opinion.

This (is) nothing but a way of presenting their own agenda by using someone's name. This is trash... in my personal view it gives a well respected paper like the New York Times, less value.

 (2:05-3:00) Reporter Translating For Jos Hermens:
LetsRun.com note: During this portion of the interview, one can here Hermens say in English say at the 2:45 mark, "This sentence about the tapping of the phone is not (mine)."

This is not what I said. What I said is that Haile has a busy life. He has to do heavy training all the time. He runs his businesses. Sponsors, companies and journalists are always bothering him with loads of questions. What I described as a pressure is the one related with these. Regrettably, this is what the New York Times reporter stated as a political pressure.

Jos Hermens said that he gave interviews regarding Haile’s retirement for a number of media outlets. Stating that he was not with Haile while the athlete announced his retirement, the idea of a political pressure that the news paper’s reporter is trying to disseminate is his own not mine, says Jos Hermens.

The sentence that says ‘different attempts of political pressures are being exerted on the athlete…’ are not my words.  The journalist asked me questions that are his own wishes; however, I told him that I don’t want to comment on this issue. 

This is not what I said. I said that Haile’s life is hectic. He has a rigorous training (regimen); he runs his business, sponsors, companies, reporters all place demand  his time with questions. And this is the pressure I had referred to. That the journalist, of his own will, described this as political pressure is regrettable.

Jos Hermens, who says that he has given responses to many media outlets including The New York Times, states that he was not even present when Haile made the announcement to retire, and that the New York Times’ reporter’s statement about political pressur, is his own idea.

The statement about various types of political pressures is not mine. The journalist has asked me what he wanted. I had told him that I did not want to say anything regarding the matter.

I didn't say this. I said, Haile has a very busy life. His is training all the time and he is running his business also. Sponsors, companies, and journalists and others are trying to get hold of him. This is what I said and sadly this is what the journalist reported as political pressure.

Although I wasn't with Haile during his announcement to retire, I have given numerous interviews, including to (the) New York Times and the association of political pressure with the retirement is only the idea of the reporter and not mine.

The reported asked me about political pressure, and I have told him I have nothing to say about that.

(03:00 – 03:08) Reporter
The athlete stated that his decision to reconsider the running that he previously decided to stop due to injuries, came from the responses and requests that came from his supporters and wants to say thank you for their support and encouragement.

Athlete Haile Gebrselassie points out that he came to the decision to get back to running primarily because of the encouragement he got from the public and expressed gratitude.

Haile has said that his decision to come back to racing, even though he was forced due to injury, is a result of the encouragement he has gotten from fans and supporters. 

 (03:09 – 03:34) Haile:
If I have to stop running, the people gave me a good lesson in what condition and circumstance I should stop and would like to say thank you particularly to the people of Ethiopia. When I heard the responses of the people about my decision, I was quite surprised to know that the people love me this much and is concerned for my well being. Therefore, I have to give a response for their support and encouragement and that response should be not only in a way that I want it but also in a way others want it too.

The public has shown me how I will need to do it, even if I have to stop, how I would have to stop. I am grateful to the public… especially the Ethiopian public. Hearing the encouragement from the public and finding out the affection people have., I have to respond… I have to do it, the way the public expects me to do it…. Not just how I want to do it”

(Haile). If I have to stop racing, there is away to stop it. And many people have indicated to me this is not the way to stop. I thank them. I thank the Ethiopian people.  When I heard, how people received the new (about the retirement), I was amazed that people worried about me like this. I was surprised they love me this much. Therefore I have to give a response. This response is not only my decision, but also the decision of my fans.

( 03:35– 03:41) Reporter:
Haile Gebrselassie will take part in next year’s Tokyo Marathon to be held in February.

 Athlete Haile Gebrselassie will be participating in the Tokyo Marathon in February

Haile will race in Tokyo's marathon in February.

Editor's Update: The article has been edited to reflect the fact that the dates of the original story were incorrect. The Hermens/Gebrselassie reaction to the New York Times story occurred on Wednesday not Thursday.


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