The day Maureen Dowd wrote f--- news and a revered political commentator didn't get the joke

Amid all the debate about what is true and what is f--- news, I am reminded of a remarkable journalistic moment that showed how hard it is to know when someone is kidding or serious. And how you can be sincere but spread false information.

Dowd (Fred R. Conrad photo, New York Times)
It was early in 2009, the first months of the Obama presidency, and Maureen Dowd, the sly and witty New York Times columnist, put tongue in cheek to describe how she had gained exclusive access to classified testimony of a supposedly secret meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In the scene created by Dowd, Democrats on the committee, led by Dianne Feinstein, are grilling former Vice President Dick Cheney about the torture methods he and President George W. Bush approved to interrogate terrorism suspects.

Dowd dropped hints all through the column that it was a put-on. The first clue should have been that a columnist was playing the uncharacteristic role of an investigative reporter writing about leaked information.

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