I was one of many bloggers and news organizations who noted the passing of the man who invented the TV dinner.

We were taken.

Roy Rivenburg in the LA Times says the story was punctured in 2003.

But obituary writers overlooked that revelation when memorializing Thomas this month as the genius behind the TV dinner. (Some writers also said Thomas has a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Also not true.)

One of the dirty little secrets of journalism is that reporters rarely have time to investigate every claim people make about their pasts. If you want to embellish, just fool one reporter for one article, then you can use it to show other reporters that your story checked out. It also helps to adopt such accouterments as the cufflinks Thomas wore shaped like TV dinner trays.

Never mind that Swanson family members, historians and frozen-food industry officials from the early 1950s have all contradicted Thomas’ tale. Or that, in 1944, the W.L. Maxson Co. created the real first frozen dinner, which was sold to the Navy and later to the airlines. Or that FrigiDinner, not Thomas, devised the first aluminum tray for frozen meals in 1947. Or that several of Thomas’ former colleagues say he had little or nothing to do with Swanson’s product.

A former Swanson publicist, when asked about phony claims of credit, recalled a remark made by President Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs fiasco: “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

Indeed. The line was used in a 1951 movie, “The Desert Fox.” And the movie, in turn, swiped it from a 1942 diary entry by Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano.

Lord knows where he got it.

  • kl

    TV fibber!

  • This happened recently with the Indian kid prodigy who aced the NASA entrance exam… that didn’t exist.

    Meanwhile, reports in Indian newspapers have also left NASA officials mystified, with an official saying that there was no such examination, that they are aware of. The NASA website too has no mention of any such programme in any part of the world.


  • Guess you would have to say that the news was ‘spam’ – and ‘canned’ content.

  • Jim Dermitt


    Now all you need to do is trick the search engines or invent a fake story for the sake of clicks and page ranking and you get instant spam. Data is easier to manipulate than people are. The budget for fake news is huge and that budget is based on the demand for fake news. People want an escape from reality. People want it like they want food. Fast!

    The ability to ask questions is the greatest resource in learning the truth.
    Data can’t ask questions. A writer can, but if the writer won’t tell who answered the questions, today it could mean jail. I’m thinking of Judith Miller in this case. A person looking for the truth may find that the cost of finding it is the loss of freedom. This is how a society ruled by data becomes a society not interested in the truth. It’s sort of sad, but true.

    A quote from Oscar Wilde, that I think is accurate.
    “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

  • Next you’re going to say there is no Santa Claus.

    To heck with the frozen TV dinner. Someone should invent a notebook computer that you can throw in the dishwasher.

    Or a pizza that won’t make you fat.

  • penny

    When I was a kid TV dinners were a very special treat. In spite of a mom who cooked from scratch we begged for them. Fast food wasn’t with us then. So cool. We could have them on babysitter night.

    I can still remember the two bites of baked apples for dessert.

    There was meatloaf, turkey, and horrible fried chicken to choose from……and what else?