What Happened To Benita Alexander After Her Relationship With Paolo Macchiarini?

Veteran journalist Benita Alexander has enjoyed a long and distinguished career, 17 years of which she spent in network television. Her long-form reports and breaking news stories were so well respected by her colleagues and impactful with audiences that by the early 2010s she was working as a producer for NBC's flagship current affairs show "Dateline." It was here, though that Alexander's life took an unexpected turn.

In 2013, she interviewed Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, a pioneering surgeon specializing in tracheotomies. Alexander was struggling with her second marriage at the time and found that she and her subject were growing increasingly close (per Vanity Fair). Soon, the two were in a relationship, and while publicly Alexander was reporting in glowing terms about Macchiarini's groundbreaking work, privately she was in the middle of a whirlwind romance with the surgeon.

However, not everything was quite as it seemed. Macchiarini, it turned out, was a fantasist and fraudster, who was later found to have lied about his qualifications and experience, his research, and the effectiveness of his treatments. Shockingly, his tracheotomies were later shown to be fatal in the vast majority of cases in which they were deployed. In the course of his criminal career, he needlessly took the lives of seven patients. He had also lied extensively to Alexander, proposing to her and promising a grand wedding that was to be officiated by the Pope. Since then, the journalist has made the story of the fraudulent romance the biggest of her career.

A break-up with a deadly fraudster

The period in which Benita Alexander began to be swept off her feet by Paolo Macchiarini was when he was at his most respected in the medical field. As far as his published papers and a host of news reports covering him were concerned, Macchiarini was a medical genius whose development of a new form of 3D-printed windpipe looked set to revolutionize the performing of tracheotomies across the world. However, it was not long before colleagues blew the whistle on what they realized was medical malpractice, as well as falsifying research to suggest that his innovations were effective, rather than deadly as they were in reality.

Whereas she formerly wrote puff pieces to lionize and aggrandize the man she loved, in the aftermath of the allegations against Macchriarini being definitively proved Alexander turned against him, and worked to dig into her own part in the story. Since the break-up, she was an executive producer of the documentary film "He Lied About Everything," which came out on Investigation Discovery in 2018. She has also been a contributor to ABC's "20/20" and "The Con," and various news reports and podcasts. Alexander is also a regular contributor to "The Dr. Oz Show." 

Benita Alexander has received criticism

But critics have been keen to point out that Alexander doesn't exactly come out of this shocking affair smelling of roses. Rolling Stone's Chris Vognar argues that the former NBC News journalist violated basic journalistic principles in beginning a relationship with one of her sources, namely Macchiarini. The deadly surgeon manipulated Alexander in a way that ensured she would file a glowing report about him as a practitioner that he believed would go some way to establishing a cloak of respectability around him and his crimes that would help him avoid suspicion. He points out, too, that Alexander originally worked to protect Macchiarini when the allegations against him first emerged.

Alexander has been challenged by numerous interviewers including Vanity Fair's Adam Ciralsky as to why she couldn't see through Macchiarini's deception. "This was not some guy I picked up in a bar. This was a renowned, accomplished, established surgeon whom we had followed all over the world," she explained. "The very prospect of him making all of this stuff up ... seemed too ridiculous to give it any credence. Why would he risk his reputation by doing that? What reason could he possibly have to lie to me, someone he obviously loved, in that manner?"

In 2015, she and a group of friends traveled to Barcelona to visit the home of her erstwhile fiancé, where she discovered he had another relationship and two children he had not disclosed to her. She continues to work as a journalist and has won several awards, including an Emmy for one of her pieces on her relationship with Macchiaini.