New York Times sues Fake Reporter for Posing as Member of Newspaper's Staff - iMediaEthics

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Contessa Bourbon, a New York woman, has pretended to be a New York Times reporter for at least the last two years. Now, however, the Times is fighting back against the imposter, who the newspaper says has used her fake credentials to get into press conferences and events and acquire social media followers. This is problematic for the newspaper because “her conduct is inaccurately attributed to The New York Times,” and “creates confusion” at events and interviews.

Bourbon “is not, and has never been, employed by The Times, as a reporter for The New York Times, or in any other position or business relationship with The Times,” the newspaper’s lawsuit against Bourbon states. However, Bourbon “has repeatedly represented herself as a journalist employed by The New York Times since at least May 2015.”

The newspaper filed its lawsuit last week, alleging that Bourbon’s posing as a Times reporter has injured the Times‘ business reputation and diluted the Times‘ trademark. The lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The Times declined to comment to iMediaEthics beyond the lawsuit.

For example, in May 2015, the Times alleges Bourbon identified herself as a Times reporter and asked questions at a Brookings Institution event, where she interviewed the Turkish ambassador. Previously, she claimed she was a Times reporter at Brookings Institution events in 2013 and 2014, the Times added.

After those events, and the interview with the Turkish ambassador, the Times sent Bourbon a cease and desist letter, but she ignored it. In the face of that letter, earlier this year, she went to another Brookings Institution event and asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a question, still posing as a Times reporter. The Times then sent a second cease and desist letter, the lawsuit says.

Most recently, Bourbon tried to get into the Congressional Gold Medal awards last month posing as a Times representative, but when she was asked for evidence of her relationship to the Times, she complained on social media.

“On October 12, 2017, when a congressional staff member asked her for documentation of her assignment from The New York Times, Ms. Bourbon tweeted that she was being blocked from covering the event by the congressional staff,” the lawsuit claims. “Ms. Bourbon’s tweets caused the congressional staff member to contact The New York Times because of the staffer’s belief, based on Ms. Bourbon’s representations, that she was in fact a New York Times reporter.”

Her Twitter account, @ContessaBourbon, identified her as “journalist for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, London Times, Guardian, Washington Post: Queen of BARCELONA,” the Times‘ lawsuit notes. Her Facebook and LinkedIn accounts also claims she worked for The New York Times, according to the Times‘ lawsuit. After the lawsuit against Bourbon was filed,  her Twitter bio has removed the Times from the list of her alleged employers.

iMediaEthics has written to the Journal, Times, Guardian, and Washington Post to ask if Bourbon ever worked for their outlets. The Wall Street Journal’s spokesperson Steve Severinghaus told iMediaEthics, “Contessa Bourbon is not an employee of the Journal.” He couldn’t comment on whether the Journal will be filing any action against Bourbon. Likewise, a spokesperson for the Washington Post said “Contessa Bourbon is not employed [by] The Washington Post” but declined to comment on whether there was any potential or pending legal action. The Guardian said it has “not heard of this person.”

After the lawsuit was filed, Bourbon tweeted claiming that numerous TV news outlets “aired my news on Russia,” and that she has “millions of followers on Twitter but Twitter doesn’t allow them at this time.” (Bourbon’s account has 327 followers.) She also tweeted a warning about fake news and, somewhat ironically, proclaimed that “Lies lead 2 tyranny” and that “Truth is golden.” iMediaEthics has tweeted to Bourbon asking for a response or defense to the Times‘ allegations.


Hat Tip: Steve Bien-Aime

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New York Times sues Fake Reporter for Posing as Member of Newspaper’s Staff

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