Sunday, April 03, 2005

C-SPAN and Holocaust Denial

I think everyone believed that C-SPAN had simply embarrassed itself a couple of weeks ago when it tried to insist on a phony "balance" on the subject of Holocaust denial by demanding that author Deborah Lipstadt appear with hoaxter David Irving simultaneously to discuss her book on the libel trial to which Irving subjected her.

The last we heard about this from C-SPAN (back on March 19), they were reconsidering: "We are still discussing how to cover this book, and we don't have an immediate timetable."

Well, now we know how they're going to cover it: Neither Lipstadt nor Irving will discuss her book. Instead, they're going to assemble their own panel to talk about the trial, and by extension, the book.

They'll have done so without any consultation with Lipstadt, and with only the briefest of warnings. At least one of their leading "experts" is in fact problematic at best.

Here's the announcement for the show later this afternoon:
Book TV presents a look at the 2000 libel trial between World War II writer David Irving and Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt. The trial is detailed in Dr. Lipstadt's newest book, "History on Trial." Guests include T.R. Reid of the Washington Post, who covered the trial, as well as video clips of Deborah Lipstadt and David Irving. Historian John Lukacs is also interviewed.

According to my friend Dan Yurman, Lipstadt told him by e-mail that she feels "blind sided" by C-SPAN's action. The network, he said, "resisted all efforts to respond to her communications and indeed refused to even answer her e-mails."

Here's the e-mail that C-SPAN sent to Lipstadt this morning:
Dear Dr. Lipstadt;

I'm writing to let you know that we have produced a program about your 2000 libel trial. It is scheduled to air on C-SPAN2 Book TV today, Sunday, April 3rd, at 4:30 pm eastern time (overnight re-air Monday morning at 3:00 am eastern time.) For more information you can go to our website at

Connie Doebele Executive Producer Book TV

Lipstadt forwarded the e-mail to friends, with the attached note:
Date: Sun, 03 April 2005 11:20:19 -0400

I received the following email about an hour ago. I had no idea this was in the offing. I have no other knowledge of the program. And now I understand why Connie Doebele had not returned my phone calls last week.

Even more problematic than C-SPAN's dubious professionalism in their handling this was their selection of T.R. Reid, of the Washington Post London bureau, as one of the chief guests.

That's because even though the description says that Reid "covered" the trial, in fact he didn't attend any of the trial itself. He only covered the announcement of the verdict. That's because he resisted covering it, deeming it not newsworthy enough, and then finally jumped in at the last moment.

In an analysis of the media coverage of the trial for Idea Journal, Yurman pointed out that Reid's coverage of the trial stood out for his resistance to even reporting on it:
I corresponded via email with numerous journalists during the trial. In one instance I really thought I'd really hit the wall in my exchanges with T.R. Reid, the London correspondent for the Washington Post. He said he did not consider the trial a priority compared to his other assignments which included the Pinochet extradition controversy which was going on at the same time. I sent Reid copies of the media reviews trying to indicate I wasn't whistling in the wind and to show there was enormous media interest in the trial. He said he was too busy.

Eventually, he wrote about the trial and the decision, but after closing arguments. In fact, Reid actually wrote two major articles about the trial. The Washington Post also published an editorial about Judge Gray's decision. Reid made a comment to Prof. Lipstadt right after the verdict was announced in her favor. He said I "badgered him," about the trial, but he also said this, "Dan Yurman was right." It is not true that I badgered him. I was always polite, but I was persistent. I am indebted to Prof. Lipstadt for sending me this feedback.

I'll watch this afternoon and report back. But the signs are not encouraging. So far, C-SPAN's behavior has been not only unprofessional, it is entirely inconsistent with its previously established standards for "balance": When it broadcast conferences of the white-supremacist organizations American Renaissance and Council of Concerned Citizens, it felt no need to "balance" those discussions with opposing viewpoints. One has to wonder why, once again, truth and fact have to contend on an equal footing with lies and vicious slander.

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