Gypsies Against Stereotypical Propaganda
1982, New York, New York

JoJo, the King of the New York gypsies was really pissed off at the defamatory labeling of the gypsy moth, a common agricultural pest. He and his people wanted it renamed. To bring attention to this plight, he formed a gypsy anti-defamation organization called G.A.S.P., Gypsies Against Stereotypical Propaganda.

JoJo (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs) sent out a press release calling for a city-wide, week long gypsy work stoppage. No more fortune telling. And, no more reading of horoscopes, tarot cards or palms until the group got some respect.

JoJo and a band of gypsies took their protest to the Governor of New York's midtown office where they marched and chanted "Rename the Gypsy Moth! Rename the Gypsy Moth!" As they marched, they handed out flyers about their plight to passersby.

Clyde Haberman of "Metropolitan," a frequent feature in The New York Times, fell victim to the piece after telephone conversations with JoJo. His reportage actually mirrored the gypsies plight. It was condescendingly written for comic relief. The New York Post, told it was a hoax, wasted no time pointing the finger at The New York Times in an article called "Times falls for the old switcheroo."

Unfortunately for Haberman, this was not the first time he had been taken in by a good story and had it publicly revealed. As a young reporter, Haberman was a stringer for The New York Times. Assigned to cover the Columbia School of Journalism graduation ceremonies, he is said to have embellished his story with fictitious graduate awards that had sexual innuendoes. He was fired for this transgression and went to work for The New York Post. He had made his way back to The New York Times when he fell for the G.A.S.P. story.

The New York Times printed a five line humorless and curt retraction of the story.

© 1997 Joey Skaggs