Tony Hendra, Satirist Behind New York Times Spoof Site, Molested His Daughter, New York Times Reported

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Tony Hendra
A website called The Final Edition launched today as a mock version of the New York Times website with the giant headline, "The New York Times, World's Newspaper of Record, Closes Its Doors Forever." (The lead photo shows the Times building in flames.) In layout, the homepage looks exactly like the Times', but all of the sections are crossed out and other headlines include, "Canine Date Rape: An Issue That Can't Be Woofed Away." According to a press release, the site is debuting as "a no-holds-barred parody" of the Times, but will transition more generally into "a satire site with teeth," presumably to compete with The Onion. But Tony Hendra, the man behind the site and long a perpetrator of media gags, may have a special reason to target the Times directly: In 2004, the paper published a huge feature in which his daughter accused him of molesting her when she was a child. More inside Press Clips, our daily media column.

Laugh Baggage: Hendra has a history of ribbing the Grey Lady, having created Not The New York Times in 1978 with George Plimpton. He followed up with My Wall Street Journal in 2008, and also had a hand in the National Lampoon, This is Spinal Tap and Spy magazine.

But it's the Times that sticks out as a target after today's satirical onslaught because, as pointed out on Twitter, the paper sort of nailed Hendra after his book, Father Joe, was released in 2004.

The book, about Hendra's friendship with a monk, was "widely praised, the accolades including a lead review in The New York Times Book Review, and critics have lauded Mr. Hendra for his raw honesty in baring his sins and for his lyrical distillation of the pitted road to redemption." But Hendra's daughter said that the book "being seen as completely confessional, totally honest, the whole story" was bullshit:

In speaking to The Times, Ms. Hendra authorized a reporter to talk to two therapists who treated her, as well as three friends in whom she confided, and her husband and mother. All said that Ms. Hendra credibly told them at different junctures of being molested, one of them when she was 12.

''I can only just categorically deny this. It's not a new allegation. It's simply not true, I'm afraid," said Hendra at the time.

In emails provided by the daughter, "Mr. Hendra does not admit he abused his daughter, but neither does he deny it."

Later, the Times public editor Daniel Okrent questioned the paper's choice to publish the story without definitive proof, despite the fact that the reporter said he concluded that Hendra did indeed molest his daughter. "As an editor, the verities of the profession might have led me to publish this article," Okrent wrote. "But as a reader, I wish The Times hadn't."

The rest of the story is here and, while not conclusive, it doesn't exactly look good either. It's not that the parody should necessarily be avoided on ethical grounds -- Hendra's new project is not journalism and so a conflict of interest doesn't really apply -- and if media jokes are your thing, have at it, but the back story does color the whole project in something of a darker shade.

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Elsewhere...

Team Julian: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the scourge of a few important journalists and potentially a rapist, won the Sydney Peace Foundation's gold medal for "exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights."

"We think that you and WikiLeaks have brought about what we think is a watershed in journalism and in freedom of information and potentially in politics," said the gorup's director.

Osama Drama: The Atlantic Wire has much more valuable information on the Freedom of Information fight for pictures of Osama Bin Laden's dead body, which we covered here and here, if that subject is of interest still. (Most Americans don't want to see the photos anyway.)

"This information is important for the historical record," Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor at The Associated Press, told the Wire.

Additionally, the site has a list of media outlets that has requested the photographs, difficult as the process may turn out to be, including the aforementioned AP and Politico, plus Fox News and more.

Department of You Only Care If You Were There, or More Likely, If You Won: National Magazine Awards, Blah Blah Blah.

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]



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