I. A Most Interesting Man
The first meeting between Benita Alexander, an award-winning producer for NBC News, and Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, the famous transplant surgeon, took place at the bar at Boston’s Mandarin Oriental hotel. It was February 2013, shortly before Macchiarini would have his initial interview with Meredith Vieira for a two-hour NBC special called A Leap of Faith.
Macchiarini, 57, is a magnet for superlatives. He is commonly referred to as “world-renowned” and a “super-surgeon.” He is credited with medical miracles, including the world’s first synthetic organ transplant, which involved fashioning a trachea, or windpipe, out of plastic and then coating it with a patient’s own stem cells. That feat, in 2011, appeared to solve two of medicine’s more intractable problems—organ rejection and the lack of donor organs—and brought with it major media exposure for Macchiarini and his employer, Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, home of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Macchiarini was now planning another first: a synthetic-trachea transplant on a child, a two-year-old Korean-Canadian girl named Hannah Warren, who had spent her entire life in a Seoul hospital.
Macchiarini had come to Vieira’s attention in September 2012, when she read a front-page New York Times story about the doctor. She turned to Alexander, one of her most seasoned and levelheaded producers, to look into a regenerative-medicine story for television. With blue eyes and raven hair, Alexander seems younger than her 49 years. Though she brims with confidence, friends say she bears the scars of a turbulent childhood in Huntington Woods, Michigan. In her own telling, just shy of her 16th birthday, she returned home from a sleepover to discover that her mother had left the family. Two years later, her father, who by then had married a neighbor, asked her to pack up and leave. Alexander overcame her upbringing and in 1987 graduated magna cum laude from Wayne State University with a degree in journalism. She spent the early 1990s working at a string of local television stations and briefly taught journalism at her alma mater. After she met and married fellow reporter John Noel, the two moved to New York City, where she joined NBC’s Dateline. In 2003, Alexander gave birth to a daughter, Jessina. Alexander and Noel divorced in 2009, and in 2012 she married a ballroom dance instructor named Edson Jeune. Over the years, Alexander has worked with NBC’s top talent—Tom Brokaw, Matt Lauer, and Ann Curry, as well as with Vieira—and earned many accolades, including two Emmys as well as the Edward R. Murrow Award, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award.
Now Alexander sat across from Macchiarini at Bar Boulud, in the Mandarin Oriental. At the time, Alexander’s first husband, Noel, was hospitalized with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, and she would in time begin sharing details about his condition—as well as about her dissatisfaction with her second marriage. “Having worked with so many patients who are terminally ill, Paolo was immensely helpful as far as helping me navigate my complicated emotions,” she explained when I spoke with her this fall. He also suggested ways to talk about the matter with her daughter. “He was an amazing friend to me during that time, and a solid, reliable pillar of strength. He spent hours listening to me talk about it all and offering gentle advice.” (Disclosure: I worked as a producer at NBC News from 2004 to 2009. I did not meet Alexander until I contacted her in 2015.)
When Alexander and Macchiarini found themselves together in Illinois for a period of weeks in the spring of 2013—brought there by the NBC special—they met frequently for quiet dinners. The trachea transplant on Hannah Warren, the Korean-Canadian girl, was being performed at Children’s Hospital of Illinois, in Peoria, and the procedure was fraught with risks, not least because Macchiarini’s technique was still a work in progress even for adults. (Christopher Lyles, an American who became the second person to receive an artificial trachea, died less than four months after his surgery at Karolinska.) “He’s a brilliant scientist and a great technical surgeon,” said Dr. Richard Pearl, who operated alongside Macchiarini in Illinois. Like others, Pearl described his Italian colleague as a Renaissance man, fluent in half a dozen languages. Another person, who would get to know him through Alexander, compared Macchiarini to “the Most Interesting Man in the World,” the character made famous in Dos Equis beer commercials.
In Peoria, Macchiarini’s medical magic appeared to have its limitations. Hannah Warren died from post-surgical complications less than three months after the transplant. Her anatomy “was much more challenging than we realized,” Pearl recounted. “Scientifically, the operation itself worked. It was just a shame what happened. When you’re doing something for the first time, you don’t have a textbook. It was the hardest operation I’ve ever scrubbed on.”
II. Crossing the Line
It is a bedrock principle at NBC and every other news organization that journalists must avoid conflicts of interest, real or apparent. Alexander was not oblivious to this. “I knew that I was crossing the line in the sense that it’s a basic and well-understood rule of journalism that you don’t become involved with one of the subjects of your story, because your objectivity could clearly become compromised,” she told me. “I never once thought about him paying for the trip as him ‘buying’ me in some fashion, or potentially using money to influence me, because, from my perspective anyway … that just wasn’t the case. We were just crazy about each other, and I was falling in love.”
While Alexander insists that she tried to put the relationship on hold after Venice, she flew to see Macchiarini in Stockholm two weeks later. “Our nights were always spent together, and always romantic in one way or another,” she said. Macchiarini was in Stockholm to attend to Yesim Cetir, a 25-year-old Turkish woman whose artificial trachea had failed. As Swedish television later reported, “It has taken nearly 100 surgeries to support the cell tissue around the airpipes. Her breathing is bad, and to avoid suffocation, her respiratory tract must be cleansed from mucus every fourth hour. She has now been lying in the hospital for nearly 1,000 days.” NBC’s special would come to include skeptical commentary from Dr. Joseph Vacanti, who questioned the sufficiency of Macchiarini’s research, but Cetir’s post-operative complications were not mentioned.
By October 2013, when Macchiarini and Alexander flew to Europe for another romantic getaway, she had in her own mind reconciled her personal and professional behavior. “The story was basically done by the time we went to London. It was all little tweaking after that, nothing significant, and so I totally separated Paolo and work in my head,” she explained. “I was in love and because I had made a very personal decision to take a leap of faith for love, I never looked back.” Should she have informed her friend and mentor, Meredith Vieira? “I knew I was crossing the line at work,” Alexander said, “and I made a very conscious decision not to tell anybody else at work what I was doing.”
III. Breakthrough in Spain
Over time, Macchiarini developed a certain skepticism about his homeland. “After I had graduated and specialised in thoracic surgery,” he was quoted saying in The Irish Times, in 2008, “I wanted to enter university to continue my studies in that field. I was blocked, I was told not to apply for the job because the result, even before the interviews, had already been decided. There were the usual raccomandati [those with pull] in the queue in front of me.” The Italian system, he told the British medical journal The Lancet in 2012, “favours people who are linked to the politics or are sons of sons but not the merits. I knew that in other countries this was not the fact. So I left.”
In 1990 he traded Italy for America, where, according to his curriculum vitae, he did a fellowship in thoracic surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Macchiarini’s peripatetic studies continued in Besançon, France, where, according to his C.V., he earned a master’s of science and a Ph.D. in organ and tissue transplantation. According to another C.V., he earned a master’s in biostatistics in Alabama and a Ph.D. in life and health science in Besançon. All told, he had a distinguished medical pedigree.
He then plunged headlong into academia, starting in France, where according to his C.V.’s he joined the University of Paris—Sud with an “accreditation to Full Professor.” A full professor in Europe is comparable to what Americans call a tenured professor, meaning the individual in question has obtained the highest academic rank at a given institution and has been accorded the job protection and other benefits that go with it. But as Macchiarini told The Lancet in 2012, he was restless: “I think if you stay in a single place for your entire life you restrict your capacity…. In 10 years it came to a point where I was adult, and I needed to go away to express my creativity.” So in 2000 or 2001—depending on which C.V. one consults—he became a full professor at Hannover Medical School, in Germany. Even Germany seemed too confining for Macchiarini, and he moved to Spain, where in 2005, according to one C.V., he became a professore ordinario, a full professor, and where he would continue to maintain a residence.
Macchiarini’s wide-ranging academic appointments seemed to prepare him well for his star turn. In June 2008, he performed a trachea transplant using a donor organ seeded with stem cells. The operation in Barcelona on a 30-year-old mother of two, Claudia Lorena Castillo Sanchez, was heralded in the press as the “dawn of the stem-cell revolution.” By replacing cadaverous cells with autologous stem cells (that is, those harvested from the patient’s bone marrow), the technique held out the promise of minimizing organ rejection and reliance on powerful immunosuppressive drugs. Macchiarini himself called the operation “a major achievement in the history of medicine.”
The breakthrough in Spain caught the eye of officials back in Italy, who, concerned that the country was experiencing a brain drain, sought his return. A headline in La Repubblica summarized the turn of events neatly: ROSSI PHONES MACCHIARINI: “COME AND OPERATE WITH US”—referring to Enrico Rossi, then Tuscany’s top health official, who would later become the region’s president. Rossi lured Macchiarini back with a large and prestigious package: a state-sponsored laboratory, the chance to showcase his innovative surgical techniques at Florence’s Careggi Hospital, and a full professorship at the university to which it is connected. Italian law, however, required proof of equivalency: in order to appoint a full professor without an open competition, the university had to show that the candidate had held an equivalent post—that is, a full professorship—at a comparable institution, whether in Italy or abroad.
Given his fame, his political connections, and his ample academic credentials, the star surgeon was regarded as a shoo-in, and in late 2009, Dr. Gian Franco Gensini, the dean of the faculty of medicine, assembled a special commission to, in the words of one participant, “rubber-stamp” Macchiarini’s appointment. But in the end, Macchiarini never got the full professorship. He operated at Careggi for a few years and then moved on to posts at the Karolinska Institute and Kuban State Medical University in Russia.
IV. Paolo, Putin, and the Pope
Macchiarini could be secretive at times. After his Christmas proposal, he told Alexander that he could not stick around for New Year’s because he was on call for what, she said, he termed an “emergency V.I.P. surgery.” When she pressed him for details, he swore her to silence before telling her, as she recalled, that he was part of a “highly classified group of doctors from around the world who cater to the world’s V.I.P.’s.” She said Macchiarini over time revealed that he had operated on Bill and Hillary Clinton, Emperor Akihito of Japan, and President Obama. People who spent time with the couple said they heard Macchiarini talk about his high-level connections. An NBC colleague, Alisha Cowan-Vieira (no relation to Meredith Vieira), recalled, “I saw a lot of text messages between Benita and Paolo, and she would say, ‘OMG, look what he just told me.’ The texts would say, ‘I just left a meeting with PF [Pope Francis]’ or with Bill Clinton or the Obamas.”
Shortly after NBC aired A Leap of Faith, Alexander met Meredith Vieira for lunch at the Modern, an airy restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art. In the dining room overlooking the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, with its works by Miró, Matisse, and Picasso, Alexander said, she told her boss for the first time about her relationship with Paolo and that it had begun while the story was still in production. She said that, while she preferred to keep their conversation private, Vieira was taken aback. “I perfectly understand her reaction,” Alexander said. “There’s no two ways about it. I crossed the line.” A source close to Vieira confirmed that Alexander disclosed the relationship at this lunch but, by this account, had assured Vieira that it began only after production wrapped.
In the months that followed, the doctor and his fiancée began planning their wedding in earnest. They set a date for July 11, 2015, in Rome. But their desire to marry in the Catholic Church was complicated by the fact that she is Episcopalian and divorced. Divorce would have been an issue for Macchiarini as well. However, Alexander said, Macchiarini insisted that he would fix things by visiting his friend and patient in the Vatican.
In October 2014, Alexander recalled, Macchiarini told her that he had met with Pope Francis for four hours and that the Pontiff consented to the couple’s marriage and, in yet another sign of his progressive tenure, vowed to officiate. Alexander said Macchiarini referred to himself as Pope Francis’s “personal doctor” and maintained that in subsequent meetings his patient offered to host the wedding at his summer residence, the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
A recommendation letter written by Dr. Mark Holterman—who, along with Dr. Pearl, operated on Hannah Warren in Peoria—suggests that Macchiarini’s Vatican connections were well known:
When Pope John Paul II was dying and having trouble breathing from advanced Parkinson’s Disease, Professor Macchiarini was called in to provide an urgent consultation for the pontiff. The decision to not perform an urgent tracheostomy was jointly made between the doctor and his Holy patient. When Professor Macchiarini renders an opinion on all things involving the diseased airway, people listen. He remains among the world’s elite airway surgeons.
Over lunch in New York at the restaurant Print, in Hell’s Kitchen, on February 13, 2015, Macchiarini spoke in depth about the wedding plans with Matthew Christopher, a designer who has dressed everyone from Broadway and television star Kristin Chenoweth to World Cup darling Carli Lloyd. He was already hard at work on Benita Alexander’s elaborate wedding gown and three additional dresses for the various functions that were planned. Macchiarini “was totally polished. Very much Mr. Big,” Christopher recalled, referring to the larger-than-life Sex and the City character. According to David Marchi, Christopher’s husband and P.R. chief, who was also at the lunch, “He told us the wedding would take place at the Pope’s summer residence and because of the enormous security—with the Pope and all these heads of state—that the planning between Matthew and Benita had to be precise. The Pope was going to let Benita use his special carriage. We discussed how to get Benita’s dress into this carriage with enough time so that Matthew can get her in, run to the church, and get in the one door before things were locked for security.”
Toward the end of their February lunch, Macchiarini asked Alexander to leave the table so he could speak privately with Christopher and Marchi. In a hushed tone, the doctor told them that Pope Francis wanted them to participate more fully in the wedding ceremony. “I almost fell off my chair,” recounted Marchi, whose Catholic parents came to the U.S. from Italy. “Growing up, I was always looking for this transformative moment. So when we were told we would take confession and Communion from the Pope as two gay married men, that was it. For me it was almost as if God said, ‘You’ve been waiting for this moment—here it is.’ It was very emotional. Matthew and I started crying.”
Alexander and Macchiarini returned from the lunch to her apartment in Brooklyn to find that the wedding invitations had arrived. Sheathed in lambskin and engraved with the initials B&P, the invitations were addressed to, among others, the Obamas, the Clintons, the Putins, the Sarkozys, Andrea Bocelli, Kofi Annan, Russell Crowe, Elton John, John Legend, Kenny Rogers, Meredith Vieira, and His Holiness Pope Francis.
By this time, Alexander had met with David Corvo, who as NBC’s senior executive producer for prime-time news was ultimately responsible for A Leap of Faith. Over lunch at Michael’s, Alexander, by her own account, revealed that she and Macchiarini had been together while the story was in production. Alexander recalled that she gave Corvo details about the wedding, including the Pope’s participation. He sent her an e-mail a few weeks later. “Congrats that this is all coming together,” he wrote. “With invitations going out, I need to tell [NBC News president] Deborah Turness. Is everything remaining confidential? She’ll of course want to discuss coverage soonest. (And exclusivity, as you would expect.) Again, congrats.” Alexander says that she and Corvo met again on March 16 and that they discussed how NBC could best cover the wedding. A source close to Corvo confirmed that Alexander told him about the relationship during the lunch at Michael’s but, according to the source, had assured Corvo that it had begun only after the reporting and production were finished. The source added that Corvo was always skeptical about the Pope’s involvement, made no plans to cover the wedding, and did not tell Deborah Turness about the possibility. By May, when according to Alexander her superiors were aware that she, as the producer of A Leap of Faith, had been and continued to be romantically involved with the story’s subject, NBC had submitted the program for an Emmy Award. Sources close to NBC say that Vieira and Corvo were not aware of how early the relationship began until approached by Vanity Fair. NBC News says that, if any new information reported in this story is relevant to its production of A Leap of Faith, it will update it accordingly online, in keeping with its standards practices.
In anticipation of a move to Europe, Alexander on May 13 left her job at NBC and notified her daughter’s school that she would not be coming back. She received a glowing video tribute from Vieira:
I first met Benita nine years ago. We were asked to cover a story—a heartbreaking story—about a beautiful high-school student who had lost her life in Colorado. And you learn a lot about someone when you’re in the trenches with them doing that kind of story. I learned that Benita is a fabulous producer. I learned that she is a brilliant writer. But most importantly, I learned that she is an incredibly sensitive and wonderful human being who understands others and wants to connect with them in a very deep and profound way. And ever since that story, every time I was asked, “Is there a particular producer you want?,” I would say, “Please, please let me work with Benita.” I love her tremendously. Not just as a professional but also as a dear friend. And anybody given the opportunity to work with her would be crazy to say no. Run to Benita. Don’t walk. Run to Benita. I wish her the best and I know she that she will do extremely well in her new life in Barcelona.
V. The Reckoning
In that instant, the bottom fell out. A few weeks later, Alexander would send an e-mail to invited guests in 17 countries, canceling the wedding. Many had already purchased flights, booked hotels, and bought new clothes for what everyone expected to be a wedding for the ages. Alexander recalled that Macchiarini tried to blame the scheduling mix-up on Vatican politics and claimed that he was on his way to Rome to straighten things out. He maintained that her fears were unfounded—that he was acting in good faith and that everything would work out as planned. He said the Pope would be cutting his trip short and returning early. Alexander was unconvinced. She confronted a painful reality. “I just didn’t want to put two and two together,” she said. “I didn’t want Paolo to not be the man I believed him to be. I didn’t want the fairy tale to end.” After canceling the wedding, she e-mailed Macchiarini: “I believed you were exactly who you presented yourself to be, to me, to my friends and family, to the world. Congratulations. You charmed me, and all of us, into la la land. I will never, ever understand how you could have done this to me, or to Jessie. Who the hell are you and what the hell is wrong with you?”
As Alexander would discover with the help of a private investigator named Frank Murphy, virtually every detail Macchiarini provided about the wedding was false. A review of public records in Italy would also seem to indicate that Macchiarini remains married to Emanuela Pecchia, his wife of nearly 30 years. Murphy, who spent 15 years as a Pennsylvania State Police detective, told me, “I’ve never in my experience witnessed a fraud like this, with this level of international flair…. The fact that he could keep all the details straight and compartmentalize these different lives and lies is really amazing.”
Alexander produced e-mails and WhatsApp chats to support her account of Macchiarini’s claims of a relationship with the Pope.In a statement to Vanity Fair, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See’s press office, was adamant: “There is no ‘personal doctor’ of the Pope with [the] name ‘Macchiarini.’ The Pope has surely never promised to officiate a wedding of ‘Macchiarini’ and does not know someone with such [a] name. On 11th July the Pope was travelling in Latin America and this was on his agenda long time before July … This is enough.” Dr. Mark Holterman, who had written the recommendation letter citing Macchiarini’s treatment of Pope John Paul II, acknowledged to Vanity Fair that “this was a vignette related to me by Prof. Macchiarini,” adding that he had relied “solely on [Macchiarini’s] word.”
Andrea Bocelli’s wife and manager, Veronica Berti, laughed when asked if her husband had agreed to serenade the couple: “He was not booked to sing at a wedding. He doesn’t sing at people’s weddings. Castel Gandolfo? Absolutely not!” Annie Féolde, Enoteca Pinchiorri’s flamboyant co-owner, told me that they were never contacted about, much less contracted for, a wedding on July 11, and that they had never heard of Paolo Macchiarini.
To understand why someone of considerable stature could construct such elaborate tales and how he could seemingly make others believe them, I turned to Dr. Ronald Schouten, a Harvard professor who directs the Law and Psychiatry Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We’re taught from an early age that when something is too good to be true, it’s not true,” he said. “And yet we ignore the signals. People’s critical judgment gets suspended. In this case, that happened at both the personal and institutional level.” Though he will not diagnose from a distance, Schouten, who is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on psychopathy, observed, “Macchiarini is the extreme form of a con man. He’s clearly bright and has accomplishments, but he can’t contain himself. There’s a void in his personality that he seems to want to fill by conning more and more people.” When I asked how Macchiarini stacks up to, say, Bernie Madoff, he laughed and said, “Madoff was an ordinary con man with a Ponzi scheme. He never claimed to be the chairman of the Federal Reserve. He didn’t suggest he was part of a secret international society of bankers. This guy is really good.”
VI. Behind the Résumé
During a recent visit to Florence, I spoke with several members of the special commission convened by Careggi Hospital to review Macchiarini’s appointment. The findings had not been made public. They said that things got off to a bad start when one of their colleagues, who had attended the University of Pisa at the same time as Macchiarini, called him out for claiming to have been an associate professor at Pisa when, in fact, he had not been a professor there at all. However, since the “false statement” did not bear on the central question of whether Macchiarini had ever been a full professor—at Pisa or somewhere else—Macchiarini was allowed to submit a corrected C.V.
Chaired by a respected general surgeon, the Careggi commission—which included a cardiovascular-and-thoracic surgeon, a pharmacologist, and a stem-cell researcher—tried to verify Macchiarini’s odyssey through academia, scouring his new C.V. and contacting their counterparts in France, Germany, and Spain. While acknowledging that Macchiarini seemed to enjoy a solid reputation as a surgeon and a researcher, one commissioner, Dr. Pietro Tonelli, concluded, “Before coming to Careggi, he had never been a full professor.” Said another commissioner, Dr. Clemente Crisci, “Not only had he never been an ordinary [full] professor in the Italian sense of the term, he had never even been an associate professor in the Italian sense of the term.”
When I asked whether this was a matter of semantics, another commissioner with whom I met in Florence said unequivocally, “Absolutely not. He was living in these places for several years. He knew exactly what the titles meant.” Continuing, he told me, “Look at Spain and Italy: ‘professore ordinario’ means ‘full professor.’ ‘Professore associato’ means ‘associate professor.’ This wasn’t a language issue. Same with the other countries. He knew what ‘P.D.’ and ‘H.D.R.’ meant,” referring to Privatdozent and habilitation à diriger la recherche, which one of Macchiarini’s C.V.’s erroneously defines as “accreditation to Full Professor” in German and French, respectively.
Vanity Fair contacted many of the schools at which Macchiarini claimed to have either earned a degree or held an academic post. While the University of Pisa confirmed that he indeed received an M.D. and had specialized in surgery, the University of Alabama at Birmingham denied that Macchiarini earned a master’s in biostatistics or that he participated in a two-year fellowship in thoracic surgery. In fact, according to U.A.B. spokesman Bob Shepard, the only record the school has for Macchiarini indicates that he did a six-month non-surgical fellowship in hematology/oncology—which according to the current Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education guidelines is 30 months shy of what is required for a clinical fellowship in that field. The University of Paris—Sud never responded to repeated requests for comment, but Hannover Medical School wrote to say that Macchiarini had been neither a full nor an associate professor there, merely an adjunct.
The Careggi commission’s January 2010 conclusion that Macchiarini had misrepresented his professional history put Dean Gensini in a tight spot. Faced with the choice between antagonizing a political master (Rossi) or violating Italian administrative law, commissioners tell me, he chose a middle course. Macchiarini would not receive a professorship and the commission’s full findings would not be released. As a result, over the years, Macchiarini’s stature only grew. (Gensini did not respond to requests for comment.)
VII. The Other Shoe
In July 2015, Alexander commemorated what should have been her wedding day by flying to Barcelona, where, along with two close friends, she went in search of Macchiarini’s residence—and answers. In all her travels with Macchiarini, she had never been to his Barcelona home.“There was a lot of nervous energy in the car,” Leigh McKenzie, an Australian friend, explained. “We tried to keep it buoyant and convert that nervous energy into humor. But finally the nerves crept in and so we stopped at a supermarket and drank some cheap wine. And none of us drink in the morning.” With Alexander wearing a blond wig as a disguise, they set out in search of the house where she had thought she would be starting a new life.
When they arrived at an affluent community in the hills above the city, McKenzie and their other friend, Nancy Cumba-Johnson, left Alexander behind in the car, walked to the gated home, and rang the bell. “There was one of those speakers with a camera,” Cumba-Johnson recalled. A woman answered, which took the two friends by surprise. She spoke Spanish. “I spoke Spanish back and asked if Dr. Macchiarini was home,” Cumba-Johnson said. “He came to the front door with his dog.” Macchiarini evidently recognized Cumba-Johnson, whom he had met over dinner in New York, and moved the conversation out onto the street. That is when a woman came down the steps with two young children.
Alexander’s two friends continued to chat with Macchiarini out in the street. They did not ask him about the woman and children. Both of them were struck by the fact that he could not meet their gaze. “When he looked down, his eyeballs were moving superfast,” Cumba-Johnson remembered. “He was like an embarrassed schoolboy who had been caught,” McKenzie said. “He didn’t make like he was in control of his own house. He could have invited us into the house. But he didn’t do that.” The women presented Macchiarini with a bottle of wine as a gift and told him they were sorry things with Alexander did not turn out as planned. They turned and walked away.
Alexander witnessed the whole encounter from the car. She noted that Macchiarini was wearing clothes that he had worn at her own house. As the two women turned their backs on the doctor and walked toward the car, she saw Macchiarini, seemingly in slow motion, unaware that he was being observed, cross the street with the bottle of wine. He tossed it into a trash can.
Alexander returned to New York to discover that A Leap of Faith had been nominated for an Emmy. “Of all of the things I’ve worked on that should have been nominated,” she said in amazement, “it had to be this one. I wanted to vomit.”
Dr. Macchiarini did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article.