Gay Talese is setting the record straight — again. “I’m not trying to be self-serving,” Talese tells Seth Meyers. “The Washington Post was wrong.” The controversy he’s referring to surrounds his latest book, The Voyeur’s Motel, which relies on testimony from a motel owner named Gerald Foos, who supposedly spied on his guests for years, through custom-made vents. After an excerpt appeared in The New Yorker, the Washington Post reported that there were factual discrepancies, namely that Foos didn’t own the hotel between 1980 and 1988. Upon hearing the news, Talese disavowed the book, saying, “How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?” But a day later, he reversed that disavowal, saying that he wasn’t disowning the book and would continue to promote it.
Talese told our Boris Kachka that after he did some more investigating, he realized that just because Foos had sold the hotel didn’t mean that he didn’t have access to it. Talese said the new owner Earl Ballard said, “Yes, he did that shit. And you know what? Half the time he was in that motel I didn’t even know it.” And because a story isn’t real until you say it on television, Talese explained the situation on Late Night. “I overreacted. I was very angry and embarrassed too because I took pride always in my life — reliable reporter is what I am,” Talese said. “And I wasn’t what the Post said. I don’t blame the aggressiveness of reporters in trying to check the facts.”