The New York Times yesterday published a letter by Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, assailing Caroline Kennedy’s status as apparent frontrunner for the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton. The author termed it “surprising and not very democratic, to say the least.”
He went on to exclaim, “What title has Ms. Kennedy to pretend to Hillary Clinton’s seat? We French can only see a dynastic move of the vanishing Kennedy clan in the very country of the Bill of Rights. It is both surprising and appalling.”
One small problem was noted a few hours later in a special Editors’ Note:
This letter was a fake. It should not have been published.
This letter, like most Letters to the Editor these days, arrived by email. It is Times procedure to verify the authenticity of every letter. In this case, our staff sent an edited version of the letter to the sender of the email and did not hear back. At that point, we should have contacted Mr. Delanoë’s office to verify that he had, in fact, written to us. We did not do that. Without that verification, the letter should never have been printed.
No word on whether the actual Delanoë shared the letter writer’s sentiments. Regardless, an embarrassing incident for the Times which was quickly remedied and which will result in a tightening of processes at the Gray Lady.
If nothing else, the incident did provide much amusement for bloggers; dozens of whom weighed in. Michelle Malkin, for example, headlined her piece “What do the NYTimes and Sarah Palin have in common?” answering, “They both got punked by fake Frenchmen.” AllahPundit snarks, “Turns out not everyone on the Internet is who he claims to be. Who knew?”
Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse practices psychology without a license:
Now, why did the Times fall for this? The correction says they didn’t follow their own procedures, but why didn’t they follow their own procedures? Were they just a little too delighted that he was saying what they hoped to hear? American decline. The French think America is in decline…
She also recalls the Palin incident, observing that, “The NYT presented that mistake as ‘one of the last straws’ that convinced McCain advisors that Palin didn’t have what it takes.” Then again, one could reasonably argue there were other straws vis-a-vis Palin whereas the NYT publishes hundreds of articles a day and gaffes of this quality are still news.
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.