In 2001, Jay Forman wrote an article about "monkeyfishing" that I edited and published in Slate. Almost immediately,bloggers, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, and the New York Times ($) gouged huge holes in the piece.
At first, Forman defended his first-person story—which described a trip he'd taken with a "monkeyfisherman" to Florida's Lois Key—as completely true. In Forman's piece, a monkeyfisherman casts a fruit-baited fish line from his boat onto the island where rhesus research monkeys were kept. A monkey perched in a tree takes the bait. Caught, the monkey is dragged down into the water.
The withering Times and the Journal investigations caused Forman to change his story. He now said that he had fabricated the lurid parts about monkeys being caught with baited lines, but maintained that he had visited the island and taunted the monkeys from offshore.
The scandal rested there until this week, when Forman telephoned me. Student journalists writing a story about the incident had contacted Forman, and this had prompted him to call me and confess that the story was a complete lie. He never even visited the island.
In a note to me, Forman apologized for betraying Slate's trust and for taking so long to come clean.
I, in turn, apologize to Slate readers for publishing the story. Although Forman still stands by the two other pieces he wrote for the magazine, there is plenty of reason not to believe him.