Back in January, The ENQUIRER reported exclusively screen icon Paul Newman, 83 was diagnosed with lung cancer at Manhattan’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Clinic and is undergoing outpatient treatment there.

Now, Paul’s cancer was first confirmed – and then denied – by long time friend and business partner,  A.E. Hotchner.

, who joined forces with the actor to create Newman’s Own salad dressing, revealed to Associated Press that Paul told him he was suffering from cancer 18 months ago.  After the story broke, Hoetchner went to rival news agency, Reuters, denying it.

"The AP misquoted me. I have no knowledge of Mr. Newman being treated for any illness," Hoetchner recanted.  AP is sticking by their report.

Newman, a former chain smoker had kept his illness secret from most pals although The Sundance Kid, screen partner, Robert Redford, knows the truth.

When Newman retired from acting in 2007, he cited memory loss and loss of confidence as the reason but family members were unprepared when Newman was diagnosed with cancer a short time later.

The gravity of the situation became apparent when Newman dropped out of a directing gig at the Westbury County Playhouse near his Connecticut home last month where his wife Joanne Woodward serves as co-director of the playhouse.

Fed up and exhausted by the grueling cancer treatments, Newman and Woodward, set out to visit and do the things he loved so  much – hitting the Indy 500 and a racing event in Texas.

Erroneous media reports that Newman had actually died on May 13 set the net buzzing until stilled by Woodward who said Paul was racing in Texas.

Jeff Sanderson
, Newman’s rep e-mailed news agencies yesterday that "Newman says he’s doing nicely" and did not respond to further questions.