It looked like a legitimate New York Times op-ed, with working links to other sections and house ads for the newspaper. But a column allegedly authored by former Times executive editor Bill Keller on why media organizations should defend WikiLeaks was a fake.
Keller cleared the air Sunday morning: “THERE IS A FAKE OP-ED GOING AROUND UNDER MY NAME, ABOUT WIKILEAKS. EMPHASIS ON “FAKE. “AS IN, NOT MINE,” Keller tweeted (caps-lock his).
WikiLeaks claimed responsibility for the deceptive op-ed, tweeting: “Yes. We admit it. WikiLeaks (Assange & co) and our great supporters where behind the successful NYTimes banking blockade hoax on @nytkeller.”
Keller told TPM he is torn between feeling the episode was a “colossal waste of pixels” and an “admiration” for the way social media roots out forgery.
“On the one hand, it was a childish and clunky prank, hardly worth the attention. On the other hand, it was interesting to watch as the fraud was conducted, unmasked, diagnosed, analyzed and judged in less time than some Olympic trials.”
Keller added that he alerted the Times about the fake post, and he assumes the paper will “look into whether any of our systems were compromised or any of our copyrights violated.”
Assuming the WikiLeaks tweet taking credit is not itself a fake, Keller said the episode raises another question: Why would an organization focused on establishing credibility boast of making something up?
“When Jayson Blair got caught fabricating, it was — rightly — a major scandal. WikiLeaks does it and it’s, what, okay?” Keller said.
WikiLeaks has experienced fundraising issues since late 2010 when companies like Visa, Mastercard and PayPal blocked donations by credit card to the organization. The fake op-ed urged Visa, Mastercard and American Express to open the channels to allow donors to give to WikiLeaks.
New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told TPM the fake post was “fraudulent and irresponsible,” declining to comment further.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com