The New York Times is suing a woman who has masqueraded as a reporter at the paper for the last four years. The lawsuit against Contessa Bourbon was filed in New York State Superior Court last week.
Bourbon “is not and has never been a reporter for The New York Times,” the suit reads. But that hasn’t stopped the Queens resident from representing herself as such at events and on social media—even printing business cards calling herself a Times employee.
According to the suit, Bourbon introduced herself as a Times reporter during at least five separate Brookings Institution events from 2013 to 2015. She asked questions of guest speakers and once even interviewed the Turkish ambassador in her (assumed) capacity as a journalist.
The Times sent Bourbon a cease and desist letter after these incidents, but the deception continued. In March, she attended a Brookings Institution event featuring Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, introduced herself as a Times reporter and asked a question, though DeVos didn’t answer because she was exiting the stage. After this incident, Bourbon received another cease and desist letter from the Times.
But even that didn’t stop her. In October, Bourbon wrote and called congressional staff members asking to cover the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for the Times. When one staffer questioned her credentials, Bourbon tweeted that she was being blocked from covering the event.
The staffer then contacted the Times asking for confirmation of Bourbon’s employment. Of course, the paper couldn’t provide any. So now the Times is suing Bourbon for undisclosed damages, alleging injury to business reputation and demanding a restraining order against her.
“Ms. Bourbon’s conduct has caused harm to the reputation of The New York Times,” the suit reads. “Ms. Bourbon’s unprofessional conduct in dealing with congressional staff members was also inaccurately attributed to The New York Times, to its detriment.”
Bourbon further represented herself as a Times reporter on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Earlier this week, she claimed on these platforms that she had conducted an exclusive interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin that would appear in “major global newspapers.”
Indeed, Bourbon’s deception wasn’t confined to the Times: She also said her writing had appeared in the Guardian, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. However, all three outlets have released statements confirming Bourbon never reported for them.
Bourbon tweeted that the lawsuit was “fake news,” and claimed to have “millions of followers on Twitter” that the site doesn’t make public (she actually has only 333 followers.) She also claimed that Steven Spielberg was making a movie about her life starring Angelina Jolie and that her story would become a Broadway musical starring Lea Salonga.
The Times had no comment beyond the complaint. Bourbon did not respond to an Observer request for comment.