Prankster Pretends to Be Paul Wolfowitz in Bizarre 9/11 Anniversary Interview

A prankster pretending to be former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz tricked conservative news channel Newsmax on Saturday during their coverage of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Wolfowitz was an important figure in the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks and his views have often been sought by journalists and news outlets but Wolfowitz was not the subject of the Newsmax interview.

In reality, Newsmax had been pranked by Andy Bichlbaum, a member of a group called the Yes Men, who "destroy brands, create public illusions, work with communities, disrupt events, and impersonate nefarious entities," according to their website.

On Saturday, Newsmax's Tom Basile, host of America Right Now, spoke to 'Paul Wolfowitz' on-air and Bichlbaum used the opportunity to criticize the network.

Bichlbaum said that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq "began on September 11, really, when Saudi Arabians flew planes into the World Trade Center."

"But there's something else that started on 9/11 - a different kind of terrorism, much worse than 9/11," Bichlbaum said.

"And the new master terrorists make those old hijackers look like rank amateurs. I want you on the set to make an 'X' over your head with your hands as if you're defending yourself against something in the sky," he said and one of the co-hosts did so.

"Great. You're under arrest. As a friend of this station I've got to tell you, Newsmax is a much bigger threat to America than the hijackers of 9/11," Bichlbaum added.

At that point, Basile and his co-hosts brought the interview to an end.However, this was not the first time that Basile had interviewed Bichlbaum believing him to be Paul Wolfowitz.

On August 21, Bichlbaum was interviewed on air for 11 minutes in the guise of Wolfowitz and told Newsmax viewers that the war in Afghanistan had wasted $2 trillion.

According to Bichlbaum, his original plan was to pretend to be a colleague of Wolfowitz from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where Wolfowitz is a senior fellow. He told Newsmax producers that Wolfowitz was having "internet trouble" and he would do the interview instead.

The producers "suggested just patching Wolfowitz through on the phone" and Bichlbaum obliged by pretending to be Wolfowitz despite the fact they don't sound similar and that Basile is reportedly personally acquainted with the former deputy defense secretary.

During that interview, Bichlbaum said: "It's very clear $2 trillion could have gone to things that Americans could now be proud of, instead of a 20-year unwinnable war."

"The next time we have two trillion dollars lying around, let's spend it on something useful like health care or education," he said.

Despite this, Newsmax apparently didn't realize the prank and later contacted Bichlbaum to invite 'Paul Wolfowitz' back on air for the 9/11 anniversary. It seems unlikely the network will make the mistake a third time.

Newsmax issued a statement to Newsweek on Sunday about the incident during their 9/11 coverage.

"While we were covering special 9/11 remembrances and honoring those who had lost their lives, including heroic police officers and firefighters, horribly there were others whose only goal is to lie, deceive, and destroy. They dishonored the memories of true heroes," the statement said.

UPDATE 09/12/21 7.53 a.m. E.T.: This article was updated to include a statement from Newsmax.

Paul Wolfowitz Pictured in 2007
Former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz leaves his house on May 17, 2007 in Chevy Chase, Maryland. A prankster impersonating Wolfowitz appeared on Newsmax twice in three weeks. Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla