By: Joe Strupp
An April Fool’s joke in the form of a fake “in memoriam” ad was perpetrated in The Washington Post on Tuesday by a local lawyer who said it was meant as a joke on his longtime friend. The perpetrator paid for a retraction in today’s paper, the Post revealed.
“A photo of Edward M. Gabriel, a very much alive international business consultant who was the U.S. ambassador to Morocco from 1997 to 2001, topped an ad on Page B8 in yesterday’s Washington Post,” the paper reported today. “In language reminiscent of the movie ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ the $322.20 ad said, ‘Though I no longer have you as my partner, this day will always be OUR anniversary. . . . I could never quit you.'”
The Post stated that this was the first time in 20 years that such an ad was known to have run in the paper. “There is no formal process for checking the truth of the ads,” the paper added. “Unlike death notices or news obituaries, which are fact-checked, families often take out “in memoriam” ads to remember a deceased relative months or years after the person’s death.”
The fake notice was reportedly bought by J. Peter Segall, a public relations executive and attorney. The Post stated that Segall was paying for a retraction in today’s Post. Segall said last night that he is “a mature man who made an immature mistake.”
“As I said in a correction that I hope is published [today], I engaged in a very stupid and ultimately cruel April Fools’ joke against a man that has been my best friend for 30 years, and I deeply, deeply regret it,” Segall told the paper. The retraction appeared on Page B7.
Gabriel said he received calls throughout the day from friends who thought he had died. “One woman told him she spent two hours crying after seeing the ad,” the Post reported.
“He’s an old friend who plays jokes on me every year, and some are hilarious, but they’ve been private,” Gabriel said in the Post today. “He’s a good friend who went a little too far. He’s apologized profusely, and I’ve accepted it, but not without being a little hurt. I think — I know — he had no ill intent.”