More on M.I.A., The Times and Truffle-Gate

It’s been nearly a week since Lynn Hirschberg’s M.I.A. profile was posted to The Times’ Web site, and the Truffle Kerfuffle continues.

Over Memorial Day Weekend, M.I.A. posted two audio recordings from her interview with The Times that she–eep!–secretly taped. Ms. Hirschberg told us she had no idea that M.I.A. was recording the interview.

The duel between reporter and source has spooked the journalism world, reminding writers that, thanks to Twitter and Facebook and other online sources, they may no longer have the final word.


In the published piece, M.I.A. is described as “eating a truffle-flavored French fry” as she mused about what type of artist she is. 

According to the tape, it was Ms. Hirschberg who introduced the concept of fry-ordering.

“They have, like, truffle, they have like three different kinds, it’s very elaborate,” Ms. Hirschberg says on the tape, explaining the menu to M.I.A. at the Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel.

M.I.A. said that, yes, she would like a starter.

“Can we order the French fries that come on the bar menu, the basket?” Ms. Hirschberg instructs the waiter.

Several types of fries, then!

If Ms. Hirschberg ordered the French fries, was it fair to include that telling detail in her piece? Isn’t that a manufactured fry?

“I was just trying to explain to her what was on the menu,” she told The Observer on Tuesday. “I don’t really have much of a comment about the French fries. I don’t think the French fries illustrate that much about her character. I don’t think that’s the only example of contradictions in M.I.A.’s life.”

Many other contradictions exist in the piece, of course. M.I.A. speaks about terrorism and Sri Lankan politics and all the while lives in a fancy house in a tony neighborhood with her billionaire husband.

M.I.A. posted one other quote that seemed to suggest that Ms. Hirschberg had done some selective editing. In the clip, M.I.A. said, “It wasn’t about me, and me getting to the Oscars. Or me going to the Grammys. That doesn’t mean anything. The whole point of that journey was so you can go, ‘Hey, 50,000 people are going to die next month, here’s your opportunity to help,’ and no one did. And they still died! It wasn’t about accolades or fame.”

In the piece, she’s quoted as saying, “I wasn’t trying to be like Bono. He’s not from Africa-I’m from there. I’m tired of pop stars who say, ‘Give peace a chance.’ I’d rather say, ‘Give war a chance.’ The whole point of going to the Grammys was to say, ‘Hey, 50,000 people are gonna die next month, and here’s your opportunity to help.’ And no one did.”

Where did some of that new stuff come from? Ms. Hirschberg also batted that away.

“She says the same thing repeatedly,” said Ms. Hirschberg. “She didn’t just say that once or twice or three times. She repeated things constantly. She said that once and said a variation of it on other occasions. She repeated herself all the time.”



More on M.I.A., The Times and Truffle-Gate