On Dec. 18, The Times published a letter from the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, that didn’t have many kind things to say about Caroline Kennedy. The letter was written in good, if stiff English:
As mayor of Paris, I find Caroline Kennedy’s bid for the seat of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton both surprising and not very democratic, to say the least. What title has Ms. Kennedy to pretend to Hillary Clinton’s seat?
One couldn’t help but wonder: Why would Mr. Delanoë care about Caroline Kennedy? But you know the French! His kicker: "Can we speak of American decline?" Mais toujours, mon petit chou….
Anyway, turns out the missive, which was emailed, was faux. The Times ran a correction today saying that (a) they didn’t verify that it was M. Delanoë’s letter and (b) they need to work on the way they handle letters.
Correction: December 22, 2008
Earlier this morning, we posted a letter that was signed by Bertrand Delanoe, 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.
We have already expressed our regrets to Mr. Delanoe’s office and we are now doing the same to you, our readers.
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. 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.
We are reviewing our procedures for verifying letters to avoid such an incident in the future.