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Gay Talese: I 'overreacted' in disavowing 'The Voyeur's Motel'

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Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Journalist Gay Talese regrets saying he disavowed his latest book, The Voyeur’s Motel.

In June, The Washington Post confronted the author with new information about the subject of his book, a Colorado motel owner who allegedly spied on his guests. The innkeeper, Gerald Foos, claimed to have peeped on men and women who stayed at the hotel from the 1960s through the 1990s, but property records showed that Foos was not the owner of the hotel during a time period in the 1980s.

“I should not have believed a word he said,” Talese told the Post at the time, adding, “I’m not going to promote this book. How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?”

One day later, however, Talese took back his disavowal, saying in a statement, “When I spoke to the Washington Post reporter, I am sure I was surprised and upset about this business of the later ownership of the motel, in the ’80s. That occurred after the bulk of the events covered in my book, but I was upset and probably said some things I didn’t, and don’t, mean. Let me be clear: I am not disavowing the book and neither is my publisher. If, down the line, there are details to correct in later editions, we’ll do that.”

Speaking to Seth Meyers during an appearance on Thursday’s episode of Late Night, Talese said the Post was “wrong” and that he was blindsided by their claims.

“I didn’t know [Foos had sold the property in the ’80s] and I was very upset,” Talese told Meyers. “I said, ‘I can’t go along and support this book.'” But Talese explained that he called the person who had purchased the hotel from Foos, who confirmed Foos still had access to the property even when he wasn’t the owner.

“If I had known that day I was told — what I know now — I wouldn’t have disavowed the book,” Talese told Meyers. “It was a mistake on my part. I overreacted. I was very angry, and very embarrassed too, because I took pride, always in my life, as a reliable reporter. It’s what I am, and I wasn’t what the Post said. I don’t blame the aggressiveness of the reporters in trying to check the facts. We all try to do that.”

Watch the segment below.