The more I think about it, the more I wonder whether it was just a coincidence that the august New York Times, for whom I’m proud to have written (including eight cover stories for the New York Times Magazine), published an an almost full-page Valentine to the gossip site TMZ this morning.
On the very morning TMZ published what they seemed to think was the scandal scoop of the century (“The JFK Photos That Could Have Changed History”).
This was an allegedly long hidden or lost photo supposedly taken on a yacht in 1956, supposedly showing JFK sunbathing while nude young women cavorted in the sea and on the deck. If real, if released at the time, it could well have derailed his bid for the presidency and, yes, changed history. Of course JFK probably did engage in such behavior many times before and during his presidency, so you could say “fake but true.”
But it was definitely a fake, as TMZ had to admit later in the day when the photo was revealed to be from a 1967 Playboy photoshoot with JFK’s head apparently cleverly photoshopped onto one of the sunbathing men’s bodies. I’m sure TMZ didn’t try to pull a fast one; I’m sure they believed it. They had all sorts of “experts” to vouch for it.
So TMZ was taken in and admitted it. But why did the Times run their big TMZ story today? Before the original JFK story and the hoax revelation? Sadly the Times quotes TMZ chief Harvey Levin telling the Times reporter that TMZ “has the same rigid standards as any operation in America.” Right.