Mueller: 'Times Piece Doesn't Square with What I Think'

The Extra Virginity author responded today to criticism surrounding a New York Times infographic on olive oil fraud.

Jan. 29, 2014
By Olive Oil Times Staff

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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.