In a Dec. 28 column for Go! magazine, titled “New Year’s Resolutions for the stars,” I made a joking reference to magician David Copperfield, in which I erroneously stated that he had been arrested in October on rape charges. My punchline was that Copperfield now “resolves to use only volunteers in his act.”
Copperfield was not arrested in October. He was accused of rape, and authorities opened an investigation, but they did not arrest the famed illusionist.
Sloppy fact checking on my part, and I am sorry for it. Sloppy fact checking is sloppy fact checking, even in a humor column. Jokes work better if they do not contain glaring errors of fact.
Two readers with sharp eyes complained about the item. Here are their emails, followed by my response to them. That is followed, in turn, by a reprinting of the entire column as it should have appeared in the first place.
By the way, I am a longtime admirer of David Copperfield and his amazing talents as an illusionist. I’m looking forward to his next show in Southern California, whenever and wherever it might be. I’ll buy tickets. And I’ll be the first to stand on my feet and cheer.
Here are the emails, followed by my response, followed by the corrected column.
First email: Copperfield was not arrested……this may be an attempt at comedy but you still have a responsibility to get your facts straight.
Second email: I am amazed that John Weeks’ erroneous blurb on David Copperfield in his 12-27 column about New Year’s Resolutions for celebrities made it within 300 yards of the (newspaper’s online) server. Copperfield has not been arrested. Mr. Weeks is clearly confusing a federal raid on Copperfield’s Las Vegas warehouse with an arrest, which would come after a grand jury chooses to indict, and that has yet to happen in this case. Evidence was still being reviewed when the story dropped out of the headlines. As a retired news anchor, I am particularly offended by such irresponsibility in your organization’s reporting.
My response: You’re right. That’s a good catch, and I’m glad you brought it to my
attention. My memory of the incident was faulty. I thought he had been arrested. When I wrote the item I went online to check on the time of year when the incident
took place. I googled “David Copperfield arrested” and got
100,000-plus hits, including items like this from Newsweek:
“Illusionist David Copperfield cancels shows after being accused of
rape …” But after receiving your note I did additional research
online and realized that “accused” is indeed the word I should have
used, not “arrested.” A correction has been published in the
newspaper, and I am planning to eat a slice of humble
pie on my blog at www.sbsun.com. Thanks again for your role in
helping me correct this error. John Weeks.
The corrected column:
New Years Resolutions for the stars
Once again, I am unable to make New Years Resolutions for myself, being perfect and all, so I must make resolutions for others.
Once again, Ill lend my efforts to celebrities and politicians, because they are so very, very far from being perfect.
Olympic track star Marion Jones, disgraced in a steroids scandal in October, resolves to run on unleaded from now on.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, heavy users of steroids, according to this months Mitchell Report, and yet winless in the championships for almost 20 years, resolve to try and get their money back.
Actress Lindsay Lohan, who spent most of the summer in rehab, resolves to get more involved in movie smashes, and less involved in car smashes.
Magician David Copperfield, accused of rape by a woman in October, resolves to use only volunteers in his act from now on.
Actor Kiefer Sutherland, jailed earlier this month for his second DUI conviction in three years, resolves to be more like Jack Bauer, his character on TV. Absolutely no drinking until the world has been saved.
Singer Britney Spears resolves to have a better year. It shouldnt be too difficult.
Idaho lawmaker Larry Craig, arrested in August for lewd conduct in an airport mens room, resolves to give up his seat in the Senate. And his seat in the bathroom.
Football star Michael Vick, arrested in April on felony dogfighting charges, resolves to keep his paws clean from now on.
Singer Paul McCartney resolves to insist on a prenuptial agreement the next time around.
Socialite Paris Hilton, jailed in June for violating parole in a DUI case, resolves to limit her parties to two or three per night.
Ty Pennington, host of TVs Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, who was arrested for drunk driving in May, resolves to spend more time hammering and less time getting hammered.
Combative talk show host Rosie ODonnell resolves to get along with more people. Maybe one or two, to start with.
Americas Got Talent judge David Hasselhoff, embarrassed when his drunk-eating-a-burger video surfaced in May, resolves to start a new TV reality show: Americas Got the Shakes.
Actor Alec Baldwin, embarrassed in April when he was taped berating his daughter, resolves to withdraw his name from consideration for Father of the Year.
Actress Nicole Richie, sentenced to an hour in jail for drunk driving, resolves to write a book about prison life. A short book.
Football coach Bill Belichick, who was caught stealing signs in September before leading his New England Patriots to a so-far-unbeaten season, resolves to hang a new plaque in his office: Cheaters Always Prosper.