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The JFK 'yacht orgy' photo hoax
Gossip site TMZ is red-faced after mistakenly claiming to have found a photo of JFK surrounded by naked women
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ditors at gossip website TMZ thought they had a great scoop yesterday — an "exclusive" photo "that could have changed history." The shot purported to show John F. Kennedy on a yacht with several naked women in 1956, years before his presidential election, while his wife was delivering a stillborn child at home. The only problem: the photo is from a 1967 Playboy spread, four years after Kennedy's assassination, and features only paid models. How badly does the high-profile mistake damage TMZ's status as reliable news source?

TMZ moved too fast on this one: TMZ is "one of the most enjoyable, well-written and best reported celebrity news/gossip sites," says Joe Gandelman in The Moderate Voice, but it fell into the classic too-good-to-be-true "scoop" trap with the JFK-naked women photo. The lesson for the various media clamoring for readers/viewers? If you're offered a history-changing scoop, "take a deep breath and check and recheck."
"TMZ gets 'Punked' with fake JFK nude women photo"

TMZ wasn't the first to be duped: Rumors of photo showing JFK "cavorting on a yacht with a harem of naked women have floated around for about 50 years," says The Smoking Gun. And the FBI was even drawn in: A 1960 memo suggests that agents believed a "harebrained claim" (originating with a Senate janitor) that JFK kept the yacht-orgy photo "openly displayed" on his desk.
"About JFK and those naked gals..."

TMZ did the right thing by owning up immediately: TMZ may only be a "gossip webzine," but "its retraction is an excellent example of journalistic standards bloggers ought to respect," says Donald Douglas at American Power.
"TMZ issues retraction on purported Kennedy-nude women exclusive"

Hubris is being punished: In a case of "unfortunate timing," says Ted Johnson in Variety, The New York Times just ran a story on TMZ in which founder Harvey Levin claimed: "we dominated all the big stories in our genre because we’re careful, we’re aggressive, and we get it right." For TMZ, this "embarrassing hoax" is a bad way to end "a good year drawing attention and scoops."
"The JFK photo hoax"

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