The New York Times is under fire after printing a falsified letter to the editor in the December 22 edition, a humiliating mistake on the part of the editors. The fake letter, sent to the Times via email, was supposedly written by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë. No one checked to make sure it was really written by Delanoë before printing it.
The letter criticizes Caroline Kennedy’s U.S. Senate bid as “appalling” and “not very democratic.” “What title has Ms. Kennedy to pretend to Hillary Clinton’s seat?” it reads. “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 … Can we speak of American decline?”
The hoax was first reported by the French Amerique on its website and garnered an immediate response from the mayor’s press office.
The Times issued an editor’s note on its website Monday, admitting that they were duped and should never have published the letter. “Early this morning, we posted a letter that carried the name of Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, sharply criticizing Caroline Kennedy. This letter was a fake. It should not have been published. Doing so violated both our standards and our procedures in publishing signed letters from our readers.”
The error could easily have been avoided with a simple phone call to the mayor’s press office. Of course it should not have been published without checking to see if he signed it. This is ethics in its most basic form.