At least 6,000 copies of a bogus publication printed to look like a section of The New York Times were confiscated after some dealers said they had been asked to put them into Sunday papers, The Times said today.
Leonard Harris, director of corporate relations, said it was not known who took the "unauthorized pamphlet" to Manhattan newsstands Saturday night. Some copies were distributed to readers, said Elliot Sanger, manager of corporate relations.
The 12-page section, which closely imitated the newspaper's typeface and layout, attacked politically influential lawyer Roy Cohn, Mayor Edward Koch and Republican gubernatorial candidate Lewis Lehrman.
"This is the poison Tylenol technique applied to newspapers," Harris said, referring to tampering with bottles of Extra-Strength Tylenol that resulted in the deaths from cyanide poisoning of seven persons in the Chicago area.
"If we could find out who did this, we could try to prosecute," Sanger said. "It's an attempt to create a section that looks like The New York Times, and The New York Times is copyrighted." He said the case was discussed with police.
The fake supplement contained a purported interview of Cohn by Barbara Walters of ABC-TV and allegations and unsubstantiated comments concerning his private life. His name appeared in every article.
"It is a total fraud. There was never any interview by Barbara Walters," Cohn said. "It's made up, top to bottom. They're masters of forgery, of fraud, there's no question about that."
The phony interview, which seemed to copy Walters' style of questioning, was a purported discussion of Cohn's role as an aide in the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s, his private life and his jet-set clients. Walters denied that such an interview had taken place.
The article on Lehrman alleged that he has made deals with Cohn and others to usher in casino gambling and to push for sale of liquor in supermarkets, not permitted in New York state.
Another article described how Cohn purportedly engineered Koch's defeat by Lt. Gov. Mario Cuomo in the Democratic gubernal primary.
Lehrman said today on ABC's "This Week with David Brinkley" that the section was put out "by someone who obviously wanted to denigrate my campaign . . . . It's clearly a personal attack."
Lehrman campaign spokesman John Buckley said he did not believe the section was a political shenanigan connected with the gubernatorial race but was aimed at Cohn.
The sections were taken from Manhattan newsstands by Times employes early Sunday after one dealer reported that a man in a dark van dropped them off Saturday night and said they were from The Times.
It was not known if they were distributed elsewhere, but "I think some of them were delivered to readers," Sanger said.
Late editions of the newspaper carried a front-page statement saying some issues of the Sunday Times contained an unauthorized political publication entitled "Profiles of the Times" that was distributed illegally to newsstands.
Last year, Richard DuPont, 48, was convicted of harassing Cohn. DuPont was accused of distributing a bogus magazine called Now East that was devoted to mocking, criticizing and discussing Cohn. It contained cartoons depicting the lawyer in homosexual poses and situations.
The Now East case was discussed in the purported interview by Walters in the phony tabloid.
"You always get down to the question when you're dealing with people this paranoid: Are you playing into their hands when you sue for libel?" Cohn said.
Sanger said the distributor of the bogus section had some knowledge of newspaper operations. Many sections of Sunday newspapers are delivered to newsstands well in advance of release, with some news and sports sections arriving late Saturday or early Sunday for insertion.
"This was also delivered Saturday night," Sanger said. "I suppose it could have been within the regular distribution pattern."
The phony supplement also contained advertisements apparently reproduced from other publications.
One advertiser, David Bates, executive vice president of a condominium company called The Boatyard, said he paid for an ad in The Times' real estate section and was unaware of an ad for his company in the bogus section.