Harvard Profs Sign Petition Against C-Span Telecast of Holocaust Denier
Almost 600 historians and academics—including 18 Harvard professors—have signed a petition protesting the public television station C-SPAN’s plan to broadcast a lecture by historian and accused Holocaust denier David Irving.
The controversy stemmed from C-SPAN’s initial decision to air Irving’s talk immediately after a lecture by Emory University Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies Deborah E. Lipstadt.
On Sunday, “Book TV” featured a discussion with Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid about the book and the trial and showed assorted clips of Lipstadt and Irving. No lectures were aired, and Lipstadt said that to the best of her knowledge, none will.
Lipstadt had refused to appear on C-SPAN upon learning of the planned broadcast time of Irving’s lecture.
“What they wanted to do was to set me up, to force me into a debate,” Lipstadt said. “There is nothing to debate.”
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies then organized a petition urging the station to show only Lipstadt’s lecture and circulated the petition among academics.
The petition attracted 570 signatures.
“Clearly, this had an impact on C-SPAN,” [Wyman Institute Director, Rafael] Medoff said after the Sunday program aired. “The program that they broadcast was a clear demonstration that they realized they had made a mistake,” he said.
In his books and during the trial, Irving has claimed, for example, that gas chambers were not used at Auschwitz and that the atrocities against the Jews were not mainly directed by Adolf Hitler.
“The notion that one gives this man David Irving room on C-SPAN is outrageous,” said Baird Professor of History Emeritus Richard E. Pipes, who signed the petition.
Lipstadt said Irving is a “fabricator of evidence and a liar.”
Irving defended his reputation and refused to be deemed a Holocaust denier.
“I think the epithet is completely undeserved,” Irving said, adding that American publishers have refused to print his books since the controversy.
Irving called Lipstadt an “upstart young professor,” and criticized the scholars who signed the petition for engaging in censorship and submitting to departmental peer pressure.
In a column by Richard Cohen that appeared in The Washington Post on March 15, Senior Executive Producer of “Book TV” Connie Doebele explained the decision to include Irving’s lecture: “You know how important fairness and balance is at C-SPAN....We ask ourselves, ‘Is there an opposing view of this?’”
But on “Book TV’s” Sunday night edition, Doebele said she regretted her choice of words.
“Using the word ‘balance’ is kind of an internal jargon that we use here in the newsroom,” she said. “What it means really is looking for another voice out there.”
All of the petition signatories who spoke with The Crimson agreed that including Irving does not promote journalistic objectivity.
“It is a distortion of the concept of ‘balance’ to give publicity and legitimacy to Irving and his proven falsehoods,” petition signatory and Sociology Department Chair Mary C. Waters wrote in an e-mail.
“This is not balance,” said Lipstadt. “This is a guy who is saying the historical equivalent of ‘the earth is flat.’”
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
Harvard Crimson weighs in on C-SPAN
Today's issue of The Harvard Crimson has an article which includes coverage of the petition as well as BookTV's Sunday broadcast. The writer gets a few things wrong - including calling Irving an "historian" and an "accused" Holocaust denier. The trial 5 years ago conclusively and indisputably proved that he's not an historian and that he is a Holocaust denier. Here are some excerpts: