Clifford Irving's Hoax
Shortly following the publicity release that the autobiography was due to be published, eyebrows immediately began to rise. Several of Howard Hughes leading companies, as well as his closest confidents condemned the book and denied Howards participation. They knew that Howard was a very private man who would never sell his story. However, according to Barlett & Steele, Clifford ignored the charges against him that the book was a phony, stating that Hughes men didnt know a damn thing about it.
To make matters worse, Frank McCulloch, a journalist for Time-Life and a Howard Hughes expert, who was the last to interview the great man in 1958, received an unexpected phone call at work. A man professing to be Howard Hughes called McCulloch in a fit of anger. He stated that Clifford and the book he wrote were phonies and that he in no way contributed to the writing of the manuscript. McCulloch told his superiors and informed McGraw-Hill of the conversation. He then approached Clifford about Howard Hughes denial of knowledge about the book.
Acting wounded because his credibility was being questioned, Clifford angrily suggested that the phone call was most likely a fake. McCulloch decided to read the manuscript himself and form his own opinion. During his reading of the book, McCulloch found the material to be surprisingly accurate in its depiction of Hughes and events in his life.
According to Fay,
McGraw-Hill and Life continued to support
Clifford knew the truth and realized that the problems were just beginning. Tensions concerning the book began to increase amongst those involved. In order to further authenticate the book, McGraw-Hill asked
Finally Howard had had enough of the nonsense and decided that he had to take matters into his own hands. On
During the phone conversation, via a telephone loud speaker Howard was asked about his knowledge of Cliffords book. He claimed that he never knew about the book and until recently had never heard of Clifford Irving. In fact, he was surprised that such a thing could ever happen. According to Fay,
Following the unprecedented meeting, Clifford gave a press conference in which he stated that the voice on television was not that of Howard. He also showed a copy of one of the letters purportedly written by Howard. Clifford refused to give up his position. He continued to declare that the book was genuine when he was later asked to appear in a televised CBS interview with Mike Wallace on Sixty Minutes.