Times published fake letter from Paris mayor

/ Source: The Associated Press

The New York Times admitted Monday it published a fake letter purportedly from the mayor of Paris criticizing Caroline Kennedy's Senate bid as "appalling" and "not very democratic."

"What title has Ms. Kennedy to pretend to Hillary Clinton's seat?" the letter in Monday's editions said. "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."

In an editor's note posted Monday on its Web site, the Times said the letter signed by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe should not have been published because it violated the paper's standards and procedures.

"We have already expressed our regrets to Mr. Delanoe's office and we are now doing the same to you, our readers," the Times said.

News of the hoax was first reported by France-Amerique, which published a story on its Web site Monday. Editor-in-chief Jean-Cosme Delaloye said an employee of the French language monthly, which is based in New York City, read it Monday morning and was skeptical.

"When we read the letter it just sounded very surprising, the choice of words sounded very surprising," he told The Associated Press. "When we called Paris to verify the information ... they were very surprised."

Virginie Christnacht, head of Delanoe's press office in Paris, told the AP the letter was a fake.

"We have asked The New York Times for a denial and an apology," she said. "Clearly, this was never sent by Bertrand Delanoe."

The Times blamed the mistake on a failure to verify the authenticity of a letter that arrived by e-mail.

"In this case, our staff sent an edited version of the letter to the sender of the e-mail and did not hear back," the paper said. "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 Times said it was reviewing its procedures to avoid such an incident in the future.

Asked to comment, Times spokeswoman Catherine J. Mathis referred the AP to the paper's Web site.