I’m doing research for my next book, which I’m not ready to write about yet though I have been contemplating that I might sort of ease into it at some appropriate point in time — which isn’t now, so I’m going to have to leave you guessing as to why I was searching The New York Times web site for the word “fuck.” You might surmise that I’m writing about journalism, or censorship, or sex, or somesuch, and I would give you that much.
But anyway, The New York Times, I have read in quite a number of places, does not print the word “fuck.” This would also be true of the vast majority of daily newspapers in the United States and we all know that you really can’t say it on TV or radio, either. In more than 20 years in journalism, I have only gotten the word into print once, in a minor column in the New Haven Advocate in 1995. (Thanks, Josh.)
So, forgetting for a moment as to why I wanted to know: Just what the, um, heck, is “fuck” doing in the New York Times archives?
Well, dammit. And I thought just hours ago that I had sworn off politics for a few weeks but here I am reading about the Clinton administration. The single findable use of the word “fuck” in the New York Times, perhaps ever, was provided by Monica Lewinsky when the paper printed The Starr Report’s full text of findings sent to Congress. You remember, all the lurid Bill Clinton stuff, which now sounds almost quaint and tame.
In a recorded conversation later on October 6, Ms. Lewinsky said she wanted two things from the President. The first was contrition: He needed to ” acknowledge . . . that he helped fuck up my life.”
I wonder if it was news, way back then, on Sept. 12, 1998? And I gather it wasn’t a precedent. Too bad. Because I bet you anything that Maureen Dowd, at least, has been dying to get the F-word into a column.