The lobster dinner that wasn't

Page Six retracts a report that Michelle Obama ordered a lavish meal while at one of New York's most luxurious hotels.

Published October 21, 2008 7:25PM (EDT)

Last Friday, the New York Post's famous gossip column, Page Six, printed what seemed like a devastating report, with potential to impact the election. "Though he's battling GOP accusations that he's an Ivy League elitist, Barack Obama has a lifestyle of the rich and famous," the report read. "While he was at a meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Michelle Obama called room service and ordered lobster hors d'oeuvres, two whole steamed lobsters, Iranian caviar and champagne, a tipster told Page Six."

Page Six is known for being less than absolutely devoted to the truth, especially when it's going after one of its column's favorite targets. (Sometimes, those targets seem related to the interests of the newspaper's parent company, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.) Still, even for Page Six, this story reeked. There was the thin sourcing, of course. Plus -- she ate Iranian caviar? Come on. Apparently, someone just couldn't resist adding that extra little bit of detail, but it was obviously too good to be true.

Lo and behold, it was -- turns out Obama couldn't even have been at the hotel at the time the column said she was.

That didn't stop some of the remaining PUMA holdout sites from prominently featuring the item, and posting images of what was purportedly a reciept for the order. Some of those sites, like Puma PAC, have apologized for the error. One, HillBuzz, removed its post that included the fake receipt (Google's cached version is here), but apparently without acknowledging the deletion, a violation of typical blogger etiquette.

As for Page Six, it printed this correction:

The source who told us last week about Michelle Obama getting lobster and caviar delivered to her room at the Waldorf-Astoria must have been under the influence of a mind-altering drug. She was not even staying at the Waldorf. We regret the mistake, and our former source is going to regret it, too. Bread and water would be too good for such disinformation.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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