The Curious Case of the HuffPo Ghost

Marion Nestle's memory lapse and disappearing byline

Last Friday, the Huffington Post ran an opinion piece by Geoffrey Canada, the president and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, and Marion Nestle, a food studies and sociology professor at New York University, titled “NYC’s SNAP Sugary Beverage Ban Is the Right Idea.”

The only problem? Nestle doesn’t remember writing it.

“I was amazed to see it,” Nestle wrote on her website,, on Monday morning. “I don’t recall writing it and I don’t believe I have ever met Mr. Canada, although I would be delighted to do so. The article does indeed reflect my views, but does not read like something I wrote.”

“I don't know [Canada], but he seems terrific via Google,” Nestle wrote in an email to Adweek later that morning. “The article uses my work. It seems like he just forgot to ask. Sigh. Would have been nice. I'm OK about what it says.”

Claire Fallon, the associate blog editor at HuffPo who edited the piece, wrote back to Nestle that morning with her apologies, explaining that she had been instructed by the communications director at Harlem Children’s Zone, Marty Lipp, to include Nestle’s byline, but had now taken her name off the piece. “The link to the post now goes to a post bylined just by Mr. Canada,” she wrote.

Problem Solved? Not Quite.

Lipp tells Adweek that Nestle did write the piece. He attributes her forgetfulness to “a senior moment” and says that he had contacted Nestle to remind her that she co-authored the piece.

“I have had a couple of inquiries from Huffington Post and another reporter about your blog post saying you never met Geoffrey Canada and did not write the SNAP op-ed,” Lipp wrote in an email to Nestle. “This has put Geoff and us in an awkward spot.”

Linda Gibbs, New York City’s deputy mayor for health and human services, got involved, explaining to Nestle in an email that she had approved the piece months earlier when it was being pitched to The New York Times and the Washington Post.

“I owe you an apology,” Gibbs wrote. “You and I spoke months ago and you reviewed a draft op-ed, with a general approval, my staff prepared for you and Geoff. It never went anywhere because NYTimes and Wash Post declined to print. Then this past week it somehow got picked up by Huff Post, I think due to the diligent work of Geoff’s press office. Unfortunately no one thought to loop back to you for a refresher and reconfirmation of approval. I will take responsibility for this.”

Gibbs’ email seems to have sparked Nestle’s memory: “Oops. I forgot,” she wrote to Gibbs. “I'm happy to have my name on it and will post an explanation when I can get back to a computer later on today. Can you deal with HuffPo? So sorry.”

Case Closed? Nope.

Nestle did update her website late Monday afternoon—explaining that because she was not notified about submissions to publications other than the Times, she “promptly forgot about it”—but HuffPo never put Nestle’s byline back on the piece. Asked why HuffPo was not going to include Nestle's byline, even though she co-authored the piece, a site spokesman did not immediately respond. "Nothing more to add," was all he would say the following morning.

As of early Tuesday, the piece was still credited to Canada alone, and included an editor’s statement explaining why Nestle’s name had been removed.

Why didn’t Fallon, the associate blog editor, put Nestle’s name back on the piece?

“Maybe she doesn’t want to bother?” Nestle wrote. “Maybe she’s just pissed? I don’t know Claire, the blog editor, but I did send her a copy of this with an apology.  And I wrote her early today that I was happy to have my name left on.”