Tom Mueller, who wrote the 2012 book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, responded today to criticism surrounding a New York Times infographic on olive oil fraud that cited the author as its source.
The Times piece contained statements industry experts, and some readers, have called sensational and inaccurate.
See more: NY Times Olive Oil Fraud Infographic Timeline
Mueller sent his statement in an email to Olive Oil Times:
“I first heard about Nicholas Blechman’s infographic through an avalanche of tweets and emails, asking me in various ways how I’d come to be involved in this project. I took a quick look at the infographic, flicking through the slides.
I found the images amusing and witty – the Tower of Pisa becoming a minaret, and the poor olive committing suicide in front of an ever-downward-trending price graph, struck me as truly inspired. But I did not read the words at that time.
I then tweeted a “congratulation” to Nicholas Blechman, mainly attempting to signal to all who had seen it that I was *not* the author.
Later, I went back and read the words. In them I saw factual errors and misrepresentations, that didn’t square with what I’ve written, or what I think. At this point, I deleted my tweet. But naturally, on the internet, what’s done is done.
Essentially, my initial reaction was premature, based on my first, visual impression of the infographic; having taken in the words, I can only say that I regret, and retract, my ‘congratulation.’ “
Earlier, Mueller said he “knew nothing” about the Times piece and was “dismayed” that his name was attached to it. “The author and I spoke briefly by phone, and we exchanged an email, in both of which I gave him general info on the olive oil industry, and pointed him in the direction of more info,” he said.
The graphic, that the New York Times called “interactive” despite having no way for readers to comment, contained a number of statements that have alarmed industry experts with their inaccuracies and fueled yet another debate about an industry at least as rife with misinformation as it is with fraud.
Sources say the New York Times will soon be revising the piece, taking into account information it has received over the past few days.