May 6, 1973: When McGinniss’ profile of Sen. George McGovern is published in The New York Times Magazine McGovern says, ”The article is full of inaccurate and fabricated quotations…In my 20 years of public service I have seldom encountered a more disreputable and shoddy piece of journalism.”
October 1973: McGinniss visits his literary idol William Styron and hears Styron extol a special vacuum pack of Georgia crabmeat. A most exquisite and expensive crabmeat, it is being saved for a special occasion. While his host sleeps, McGinniss douses the delicacy with Tabasco; in the morning, he has it for breakfast. ”It was offensive,” recalls Styron today, ”but certainly not a major breach of trust.”
August 20, 1984: Jeffrey MacDonald files a $15 million breach of contract lawsuit against the author. The former Green Beret, who was convicted of killing his own wife and children, had trusted McGinniss’ apparent friendship and wound up the subject of his unfavorable blockbuster book and miniseries Fatal Vision.
September 1987: McGinniss has his first and only sit-down interview with Janet Malcolm of The New Yorker. ”It felt like being in a bottle with a scorpion,” he later testifies.
November 23, 1987: McGinniss settles the suit for $325,000.
March 6, 1989: Malcolm publishes the first half of her thermonuclear strike on McGinniss’ reputation, attacking him for eating Styron’s crabmeat and duping Jeffrey MacDonald into trusting him.
July 19, 1993: Sen. Eugene McCarthy, recalling McGinniss as a young Washington journalist, tells EW: ”He’s kind of a deceptive interviewer — he smiles all the time. You have to watch those guys.”