"If you sleep with the elephants, you can’t cover the circus” has developed into a newspaper adage. In 1977, it was discovered that New York (NY) Times writer Laura Foreman had been sleeping with Henry J. “Buddy” Cianfrani (1923-2003), a Pennsylvania state senator. Times executive editor Abraham Michael “A.M.” Rosenthal (1922-2006) called Foreman into his office, where she submitted her resignation.
A. M. Rosenthal’s now-famous (alleged) statement has been worded slightly differently. “I don’t care if my reporters are screwing elephants, as long as they’re not covering the circus” was reported in The Village Voice in 1977. “It’s okay to f— elephants, just don’t cover the circus” was reported in Newsweek magazine in 1977. The statement is sometimes interpreted to mean the Washington federal government “circus” and Republican “elephants,” but Buddy Cianfrani was a Democrat and he served only in Pennsylvania state government.
Wikipedia: Henry Cianfrani
Henry J. “Buddy” Cianfrani (born March 19, 1923 – July 3, 2002) was the Pennsylvania state senator for the first district.
In the middle 1970s, he began dating political reporter Laura Foreman of the The Philadelphia Inquirer. The two moved in together and she reportedly accepted money and gifts from him while she was still reporting on him for her newspaper. After the affair became public in 1977 she was fired by her employer, The New York Times. She and Cianfrani married in 1980, after his divorce from his first wife was finalized and he was released from federal prison.
Wikipedia: A. M. Rosenthal
Abraham Michael “A.M.” Rosenthal (May 2, 1922 – May 10, 2006), born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, was a New York Times executive editor (1977–88) and columnist (1987–1999) and New York Daily News columnist (1999–2004). He joined the New York Times in 1943 and worked for the Times for 56 years - from 1943 to 1999. Rosenthal won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for international reporting. As an editor at the newspaper, Rosenthal oversaw the coverage of a number of major news stories including the Vietnam war, the Pentagon Papers, and the Watergate scandal. Together with Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, he was the first westerner to visit a Soviet GULAG camp in 1988.
Google News Archive
5 December 1977, The Village Voice (New York, NY), “The Reporter, the Pol and Conflict of Interest: A Morality Tale” by Judy Oppenheimer, pg. 11, cols. 1-2:
Ten days later the Times caved in. Foreman was called into executive editor A. M. Rosenthal’s office; at the end of their meeting she submitted her resignation. “I don’t care if my reporters are screwing elephants, as long as they’re not covering the circus,” Rosenthal said in a publicized aside—a bit unfair in view of the fact that she didn’t screw Washington elephants.
Volume 90, Issues 19-26
New York Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal, who requested Foreman’s resignation, is said to have commented, “It’s okay to f— elephants, just don’t cover the circus.”
When the story of Laura and Buddy broke in Philadelphia, Abe Rosenthal at The New York Times called Roberts at the Inquirer. The conversation was short, but Rosenthal, who has not made a name for himself in journalism by being diplomatic, made a now famous comment about his view of the case: “It’s okay to fuck elephants — just don’t cover the circus.”
The Best of Roger Simon
By Roger Simon
Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books
I thought George Will was smarter than this. I thought he was smart enough to know one of the principal rules of journalism: If you sleep with the elephants, you can’t cover the circus.
The Making of Tv’s Top Newspaper Drama
By Douglass K. Daniel
Syracue, NY: Syracuse University Press
Later, Lou quotes what he calls an old editor’s saying: “You can get romantically involved with elephants, but don’t cover the circus.”
The Elements of Journalism:
What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect
By Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
New York, NY: Three Rivers Press
When, after Foreman had been hired by the Times, the affair was discovered, Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal famously declared, “I don’t care if you sleep with elephants, as long as you don’t cover the circus.”
Timeless lesson for journalists: “You can’t cover the circus if you sleep with the elephants.” http://bit.ly/d6IqXY
1:17 PM - 17 Oct 10
@timothypeck - Old newspaper adage: “You don’t get to sleep with the elephant and then cover the circus.” #avlbid #avlgov
5:08 PM - 9 Oct 12
New York City • Media/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Tuesday, August 20, 2013 • Permalink