Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: A Would-Be Rockefeller Responds to the Critics

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: A Would-Be Rockefeller Responds to the Critics

Article excerpt

Last week, Christopher Rocancourt called (collect) from a jail in Vancouver, British Columbia. Rocancourt, you may recall, is the supposed con artist who has been accused of bilking numerous gullible souls in the Hamptons of hundreds of thousands of dollars by impersonating a wealthy Rockefeller heir (from the French side of the family, of course). After he was arrested in East Hampton last summer (for failing to pay a bed-and-breakfast bill), he jumped bail and did not turn up again until April, when he was apprehended in Canada and charged with fraud and sexual assault. Two weeks ago, a U.S. attorney indicted him for fraud.

Rocancourt, however, is no ordinary mountebank. He is also, like most people these days, a media critic. If every good journalist is a bit of a con man, then perhaps every good con man knows a thing or two about being a journalist. Over the telephone last week, he said, "My concern is how accurate the news will be, how the journalist does his work." He has a thick French accent, like a jailhouse Pepe Le Pew. "I have a big thing about people who do a job to have integrity of self." A few weeks ago, Rocancourt wrote down his criticisms of the media's treatment of him in a letter to "60 Minutes," after sitting for an interview with Steve Kroft for an upcoming episode. The letter consisted of four handwritten pages.

"Like a specimen under a microscope, I have become the subject swab of a vast multimedia experiment," he wrote from his cell. "Journalists from around the world put on the white lab coats with great enthusiasm. . . . How professional were their actions? Let me critique their diagnosis."

The first to be evaluated was Bryan Burrough, whose long story about Rocancourt ran in the January issue of Vanity Fair. "Dr. Burrough has demonstrated himself as the scientist completely void of any journalistic deontology," Rocancourt concluded. …

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