- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2008

Oo-la-la. The New York Times was duped Monday by someone posing as the “mayor of Paris.”

The faux French official sent a vitriolic e-mail to the paper critical of Caroline Kennedy’s aspirations to assume Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s seat in the Senate — and the Times posted it to its Web site.

Now it is time for mea culpas and inevitable schadenfreude.

“We posted a letter that carried the name of Bertrand Delanoe, the mayor of Paris, sharply criticizing Caroline Kennedy. This letter was a fake. It should not have been published,” the Times stated in an editor’s note.

“Doing so violated both our standards and our procedures in publishing signed letters from our readers. We have already expressed our regrets to Mr. Delanoe’s office and we are now doing the same to you, our readers.”

The paper failed to follow even the most basic tenets of Journalism 101, perhaps. It failed to verify the authenticity of the letter, opting to post the missive unvetted.

“Our staff sent an edited version of the letter to the sender of the e-mail and did not hear back. At that point, we should have contacted Mr. Delanoe’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,” the editor’s note continued.

The Times has promised to review its online publishing protocols.

Meanwhile, the mysterious sender — who has yet to be identified — did not hold back on the criticism in the letter.

“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,” the letter said.

“We French have been consistently admiring of the American Constitution, but it seems that recently both Republicans and Democrats are drifting away from a truly democratic model. The Kennedy era is long gone, and I guess that New York has plenty of more qualified candidates to fill the shoes of Hillary Clinton. Can we speak of American decline?” Chuckling ensued among the chattering classes.

“The mayor of Paris actually doesn’t care if Caroline Kennedy becomes a Senator, the Times has been forced to reveal. Also if you e-mail them with a famous name they’ll just print it,” noted the prominent gossip blog Gawker, which deemed the mix-up a “mildly amusing international incident.”

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