Deputy leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Asle Toje on Thursday dismissed media reports claiming he had said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the “biggest contender” for the Nobel Peace Prize, reported ANI.

The clarification came after some TV channels and news publications, including Times Now, OpIndia and The Economic Times, misquoted Toje to claim that Modi is a major contender for the prestigious award.

Notably, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which selects the nominees, does not divulge the names of the contenders for 50 years.

Toje, who is on a visit to India, described the claims as fake news. “Let’s not give it energy or oxygen,” he added. “I categorically deny that I said anything resembling [what is being spread].”

The misinformation was spread after Toje, in an interview with Times Now, lauded Modi for his stand on the Russia-Ukraine war following Moscow’s warning to use nuclear weapons.

“I think every country in the world should give this message and it is all the more important when it comes from a powerful country like India,” Toje said.

He added: “Modi has been the prime minister for some years now and is one of the elder statesmen of this world. I think that credibility, and it is interesting to see that India has in record time gone from being a developing country to becoming one of the primary economies of this world. It is taken more seriously and when India speaks, it tends to be with a friendly voice and without threats.”

While Toje did not mention anything about Modi being a contender for the award, TV channels and media reports falsely reported his comments as an indication of the prime minister being a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

During the interview with the deputy leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Times Now anchor claimed that Toje has said that Modi is the “biggest contender” for the prize and exhorts viewers to listen to the conversation.

In another interview by The New Indian, in which the anchor asks about Modi and the prize, Toje is not seen replying in the affirmative.

He said that any leader should do enough to win the prize. “But the work comes first and the award comes later,” Toje added.