It was green, it was the exact size, and it looked real. It was also illegal.
“Oh, shit,” I said. The U.S. Treasury frowns upon the reproduction and distribution of exact copies of money. (And several people inside and outside the newspaper building took the opportunity to let me know that, too.) I don’t recall what story we were illustrating but it didn’t matter.
We screwed up.
Early in the afternoon, I got a call from a Secret Service agent. I told him I was expecting his call. He laughed, which relieved me. He told me that doing what we had done was forbidden by federal statute. I told him that I understood. That it was a mistake, and that it would not happen again. He chuckled this time and said, “I understand, but I need to finish this.” And he proceeded to tell me about the potential fine and punishment.
I thanked him, he thanked me, and we hung up.
An hour later, I got a phone call from a reporter with one of the local television stations who wanted to interview me for a story about the screwup. I asked why, and she said it was an interesting, fun story about money.
“Yeah, OK,” I said. “Thanks, but it’s close to our deadline, and I don’t have time for it.”
She said, “We’re in our truck right outside your office.”
I laughed; I had to give her credit for that.
“Nevertheless,” I said, “I’m happy to give you a statement, but I’m not going on camera. I know you’re going to try to make us look foolish and I won’t help you do that. If you want to interview me by phone, here I am.”
She said, “hold on” and covered the phone to talk with someone else. She came back on and said, “Thanks, but since we can’t interview you on camera, we’ve decided not to do the story.”
When you’ve got to have a talking head….