The New York Times was forced to run a very memorable correction for its recent obituary of legendary writer Gore Vidal.
Vidal died on Tuesday at 86. The Times' lengthy obituary, by venerable staffer Charles McGrath, touched on all of the major aspects of Vidal's life, from his jousts with William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer to his famously fluid sexuality.
However, McGrath got a few of the more riotous points about Vidal's life wrong, causing the Times to fall on its sword repeatedly:
An earlier version misstated the term Mr. Vidal called William F. Buckley Jr. in a television appearance during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was crypto-Nazi, not crypto-fascist. It also described incorrectly Mr. Vidal's connection with former Vice President Al Gore. Although Mr. Vidal frequently referred jokingly to Mr. Gore as his cousin, they were not related. And Mr. Vidal's relationship with his longtime live-in companion, Howard Austen, was also described incorrectly. According to Mr. Vidal's memoir "Palimpsest," they had sex the night they met, but did not sleep together after they began living together. It was not true that they never had sex.
It seems safe to say that corrections about when exactly notable writers first consummated their relationships with their partners do not often appear in the pages of the Gray Lady. Luckily for McGrath, he does not hold the record for most obituary-related corrections in the Times. That dubious honor goes to the ever-infamous Walter Cronikite appraisal written by television critic Alessandra Stanley in 2009. Her piece required seven corrections (and even provoked a tart rejoinder from Katie Couric), leaving McGrath's three errors firmly in the dust.