Sunday, December 02, 2007

Peter Byrne on The Nation

The Nation's public relations flack, Ben Wyskida, is most disingenuous. In the magazine's kill memo, which Amanda Witherell saw, The Nation's investigative editor, Bob Moser, who had worked closely with me on the project, wrote that I had done a "solid job," but that the magazine liked to have a political "impact," and since Feinstein was "not facing a strong challenge for re-election," they were not going to print the story. If that is not a political reason, then I do not know not what is.
Wyskida, who was not involved in the project, is not telling the truth when he talks about problems with sourcing etc. Notice that he does not refer to a single concrete example of a supposedly incorrect fact. That is because every fact stems from a public record or an on the record interview for attribution; and every fact was triple-checked. After the right wing talk radio demagogues started broadcasting my findings in March, thousands of bloggers, and an assortment of mainstream media reporters, glommed onto the story searching for factual errors. They found not a single one. Nor did The Nation find any factual errors; and the central thesis of my reporting, that Feinstein did not recuse herself from acting on matters that significantly impacted her personal finances, was clearly corroborated by the Congressional Record. No less than four non-partisan ethics experts reviewed the material, and it was their clearly reported statements in my story that Feinstein had a conflict of interest that gave the article gravitas. Wyskida is blowing smoke because The Nation is embarrassed that conservative bloggers and radio-jerks like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage were lauding the story and applauding The Nation for funding it.
As for The Nation's status as a mouthpiece for the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, you will observe that Vanden Heuval does not like Rupert Murdoch's darling, Hillary Clinton, but she gushes over Mister War On Terror is Good Barack Obama. And The Nation recently loathed Cindy Sheehan in print for daring to run against the Democrat's Great White Warmonger, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And, please note, Mister Wyskida, that your boss, Katrina Vanden Heuval wrote an editorial praising Feinstein after the November 2006 elections.
And of course the neoconservative magazines passed on the story: because they consider the so-called liberal Feinstein as one of their own! If The Nation had any guts, it would come clean and admit it made a mistake based on political opportunism. And you’d best get your facts in order, Wyskida, because I have an email trail of every interaction that I had with The Nation's editors. That said, there is an obvious fracture within the editorial ranks at The Nation. The managing editor who originally approved my story is gone; so is the person at The Nation's investigative fund who wrote the check. And not all the writers are pro-Pelosi, pro-Obama. Despite being forced to witness socialite-millionaire Vanden Heuval's self-promoting antics on television, radio and the Net, many fine writers at the magazine swallow their gorge and continue to perform good services. The ancient, ailing publication just needs a new editor/publisher--one who is not a political partisan. For the full account of what really went down see my exposé, DiFi Backlash: [link]--Peter Byrne

Last week we noted The Nation's killing of Peter Byrne's story. A number of e-mails came in asking why we didn't note Byrne's comments to the online article? We never saw them until they were pointed out.

Amanda Witherell's "Project Censored: The Byrne ultimatum: The story behind a censored story that was killed by The Nation" (San Francisco Bay Guardian) appeared in September and C.I. clipped it and put it in a folder we keep for ideas. The folder also has illustrations (because we took it to DC in mid-September) including many done by Betty's son (which we will be using in the coming months). C.I. and Jess are the ones who utilize it the most and that is mainly in adding things to it. It is a huge folder. Dona had just read Project Censored (the latest book installment) and mentioned the censoring of the article by Byrne (which we had noted before) at the end of October or the start of November. When she did, Jess said, "You know there's an article on that." Clipped to the article were various faxes from friends of C.I.'s asking if and when the article was going to be noted. One fax included Young Ben's laughable comments with the message, "Okay, now you've GOT to cover this." We never went to the website (the web address for the article was provided in every fax) and were unaware, until readers e-mailed last week, that Byrne had also commented. When we finally did the article, which we had noted weeks prior that we hadn't had time to get to, it was only because readers reminded us of our promise (online) to cover it. It was, from the beginning, one of those topics that repeatedly fell through the cracks. Not because it wasn't important but we just always had another topic to cover and too little time.

Our apologies to Byrne because we certainly would have included his comments in full last week had we been aware of them. Byrne is, obviously, not saying anything that's in dispute. Katrina vanden Heuvel is ruining the magazine and there are writers who are leaving (and have left) and those who are hanging in there hoping for a change in leadership. We've noted that here repeatedly for over a year now. He is correct. That's one of those 'baseless charges' Young Ben felt the need to e-mail us about July 2nd. Young Ben couldn't identify that or any other error in his over 40K e-mail; however, a friend at the magazine says that was the big beef Young Ben was attempting to chew on. Young Ben was not involved in the writing or the editing of Byrne's article and not involved in the decision making. He was "out of the loop" on it as a magazine insider explained to us. Again, Byrne makes that point and he is correct. The publicity director Young Ben (who once showed so much promise when he devoted himself to sex and sarcasm with a sideline interest in Green party politics) has taken a job that is over his head. But that's an article for another edition.

We're not sure which article Byrne's referring to that was slamming Cindy Sheehan and appeared in print. It's not like there was only one. Katha Pollitt's nonsense was repeated and it appeared online. Katrina's laughable "dialogue" (it's only a dialogue if she gets the last word and 'responds' to someone she doesn't allow to respond back) appeared in print. We have no idea whether Gilligan's nonsense appeared in print. (We call him Gilligan and do not refer to him by name. The same way he refuses to use the term "war resister" even when writing of war resister Darrell Anderson in The Guardian of London.) But the magazine -- in print and online -- has repeatedly slammed Cindy Sheehan, Byrne is correct.

"Socialite-millionaire vanden Heuvel"? We wouldn't use that term. It applies too much to her. She's not all that wealthy (despite the claims) and repeating it allows many to think she can't be ousted (she can be and support for her is weakening, she really just has a former Republican firmly on her side at this point). Yes, she and her family members disgraced themselves publicly fighting for the money her grandfather earned (the only real earner in that family) and, yes, it wasn't enough for them to fight in court, they had to take their refusal to pay estate taxes up through the court system and repeatedly (and publicly) lose. Which is why we wouldn't call her a "socialite" either. She wishes she were.

The truth is her social circle has shrunk so it's a good thing she's surrounded herself with coffee fetchers. She is not that wealthy and the majority of the people she loosely knew in 'moneyed circles' laughed in disbelief at the court battles and now refer to her as a "money grubber." That's not how you want to be to known in the moneyed class. Her father is also an issue (and her grandfather disparaged him to Elaine and C.I. repeatedly long before her father divorced her mother -- a woman that Elaine states Katrina should have attempted to emulate instead of being "Daddy's little girl"). As is the fact that she's gone around begging for money to fund one lame brained 'cause' after another that would 'take back' the Democratic Party. None have worked and there are jokes about "the beggar at the door." So she's not a "socialite" by any means. She was never Cornelia Guest. (Elaine says we have to note this and C.I. says "I'll live with it." Socialites with similar appearance challenges have them fixed.) And Rebecca's mother-in-law has made damn sure that doors closed.

She's "Daddy's girl." And her father was never received well in power circles. He did some spy work, did some lowly ambassador work (lowly so C.I. insists that, despite the rumors that her father was a spy during that period, it be noted that the man was not a spy after WWII) and then he basically, in the opinion of his late father-in-law, benefited from the name and money of the family he married into. Daddy's girl was enthralled with him and made him her role model. Together they bring each other onto any board they serve on. They get those posts by promising money and the really big money never emerges. (Do people realize how little Katrina's contributed to the campaigns of Bernie Sanders -- a politician she has repeatedly held up as a role model over the years?)

Calling her a "socialite" is akin to calling Tatum O'Neal's character Addie (Paper Moon) a "socialite." On that we disagree with Byrne (but do grasp how he came to that description).

Her grandfather made the family fortune in the world of entertainment and she has repeatedly traded on favors. More and more, people feel that any admiration they had for the man (who was a highly esteemed man) has been paid back in full. When she took to weighing in on last year's Oscars, she offended a good portion of the entertainment world because she broke protocol and, though she is not a member of the Academy, she certainly should have known better. (It also needs to be noted that her remarks were considered "tacky" -- which they were.)

Our apologies for not including Byrne's remarks last week. Despite some readers' fears, we weren't trying to ignore his criticisms, we just weren't aware of them.

We should further add that Young Ben's comments (not worth quoting) including the laughable statement that the magazine never promises a cover. Yeah, and Barbara Walters never allows subjects to dictate the interviews. Tell another funny, Young Ben. Hey, why don't you tell one about the circulation and we'll all pretend that we haven't heard endlessly that the magazine is including "trial subscriptions" (which get cancelled) in the circulation statement as "subscribers."
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