It turns out Gore Vidal wasn't so chaste after all.
In a blow to the celibates everywhere, the New York Times has set the record straight — Vidal did in fact sleep with his partner Howard Austen.
Charles McGrath's elegantly written obituary for the "Burr" novelist and literary raconteur who died Tuesday at 86 years old, got a few key details wrong. Those errors forced the Times to issue one of its most bizarrely hilarious corrections yet.
In addition to saying that Vidal never had sex with Austen, McGrath mistakenly identified the writer as a relative of former Vice President Al Gore. McGrath also bungled a famous put-down Vidal delivered to William F. Buckley during a joint television appearance in 1968.
Here's the Times correction in full:
"An earlier version misstated the term Mr. Vidal called William F. Buckley Jr. in a television appearance during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was crypto-Nazi, not crypto-fascist. It also described incorrectly Mr. Vidal’s connection with former Vice President Al Gore. Although Mr. Vidal frequently referred jokingly to Mr. Gore as his cousin, they were not related. And Mr. Vidal’s relationship with his longtime live-in companion, Howard Austen, was also described incorrectly. According to Mr. Vidal’s memoir 'Palimpsest,' they had sex the night they met, but did not sleep together after they began living together. It was not true that they never had sex."
What makes the addendum particularly unusual is that the Times, like most major newspapers, writes its obituaries in advance and these errors are all fairly easy to catch — a quick search of YouTube turns up the heated exchange between Buckley and Vidal, for instance. Still it does not match the doozy of a correction that the Grey Lady was forced to issue for a 2009 appraisal of Walter Cronkite's career, when TV critic Alessandra Stanley misstated the dates of both Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination and Neil Armstrong's moon landing.