'Homewreckers' face New York's fury at a very public wedding

It is the world's window on the love lives of Manhattan's social elite, the directory of high-society marriages that seals any Upper East Sider's status as a true member of the establishment. But now the serene grandeur of The New York Times's weekly "Vows" wedding section has been rudely disrupted by a celebration of a relationship that tore two families apart.

The wedding in question was that of Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla, she a television newscaster in New York City, he a powerful marketing executive at the entertainment giant Time Warner.

Their story – "What happens when love comes at the wrong time?" – has unleashed a torrent of online invective that even the holiday weekend has not quelled. Now Mr Partilla is cursing their eagerness to have their marriage celebrated in the society pages, and Ms Riddell's furious ex-husband has lashed out at the Times for allowing the happy couple to "whitewash" the past. It is all terribly unbecoming.

Even the writer of the Vows section piece admitted it was a "messy" one. The couple met and fell in love while still married to other people. Each had children. In fact, the families were neighbours and good friends. But their tale, illustrated with glamorous photos from their marriage ceremony at an exclusive hotel and featuring several of their children, was presented as the very model of the modern divorce. "The part that's hard for people to believe is we didn't have an affair," Ms Riddell told the newspaper. "I did a terrible thing as honourably as I could," Mr Partilla said.

The tale provoked instant criticism in the comments section of the newspaper's website, with reader after reader condemning the couple as selfish – if not actually for leaving their spouses, then at least for advertising the fact to the world. "If the couple had a sense of decency and wished to truly respect the feelings of their ex-spouses, they would have denied themselves the pleasure of having their 15 minutes of fame in The New York Times," said one typical poster.

Others asked when did the Times "hire Perez Hilton" and start to "glorify homewrecking"? And an ordained marriage officiant wrote: "Why publish this, a story that cuckolds not only the institution of marriage but the unceremoniously discarded spouses?"

Within days, the story had become a full-on internet phenomenon, while the Today show on NBC television dedicated a whole section to the couple, complete with a psychologist calling the Vows piece the "confessional" of a couple wracked with guilt, and comparisons to the wife-swap gossip of pop star Shania Twain's love life. Then a bombshell: the angry intervention of Bob Ennis, Ms Riddell's first husband – whose marriage to the TV presenter had itself been featured in the Times 15 years earlier.

"The primary story here is not that interesting," Mr Ennis told Jeff Bercovici, a media blogger on the Forbes.com website. "People lie and cheat and steal all the time. That's a fact of life. But rarely does a national news organisation give them an unverified megaphone to whitewash it.

"You could easily try to brush this off as a kind of self-evidence, a self-serving act by a couple of narcissistic people who for whatever reason have a need to try to persuade people, except for the fact that there are lots of children involved."

For all the invective, though, not everyone has come out against the couple in the swirling debate about modern marriage that Vows has triggered. "This is a situation that happens every single day around the world," said one comment on the Times site. "It's devastating, painful and quite frankly, there's just no easy answer no matter how you look at it. The saving grace to this is that Carol and John did not actually cheat on their spouses or lie to them. They told them the truth. They were adults who acted like adults. I wish them a long and happy marriage."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore