Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Lipstadt's Reactions to CSpan Coverage

[Please note this is a revised and amended version of my original post on the show which was broadcast on Sunday afternoon, April 3rd]

CSpan devoted an hour to the trial. The program began with Connie Doebele, Executive Producer of Book TV being interviewed by some unidentified man. She explained how this entire controversy came about.

*She noted that they had received over 3000 emails, most of them quite critical of them for wanting to put me on with Irving.

*She said their intention was to broadcast my presentation and to follow that up with a conversation with a journalist who would show clips of Irving and provide context for them. [Comment: They never said this to me or to Harper Collins.]

*She quite emphatically said: “We never intended to balance the holocaust.” Though, she did acknowledge using that terminology in explaining their programming plans. It was, she said, “internal jargon” that journalists use which means, “looking for another voice.” She expressed regret for having used the term.

*Regarding their plan to air Irving by himself, she suggested that I had misunderstood, and said this was the “standard bargaining thing that journalists do.” They suggest to the person who is reluctant to go on that their voice will not be heard unless they do. [Comment: Of course, they had told this to both Richard Cohen and to me. And if they were simply trying to strong arm me into appearing, I guess that they -- just like David Irving -- did quite know what makes me tick.]

*Now, because “Deborah Lipstadt refused to allow us to tape her program,” they will be doing an abbreviated version of their original program, i.e. they would only show the part with TR Reid of the Washington Post who was in London during the trial.

COMMENT: No one at CSpan ever said that that was how they intended to cover the book. In a number of conversations with my publisher and with me they never said this was how they planned to do it. Had they told me this I never would have objected.

TR Reid:
When TR Reid came on he made the following points:

*Irving is an amateur historian.

* Irving is someone who, rather than deny the Holocaust, argued that Hitler did not know about the Holocaust. [Comment: While this was the thrust of Irving's argument in his book, Hitler War, which was published in the late 1970s, now Irving's Holocaust denial extends far more broadly than that. He says there were no gas chambers. There was no plan to murder the Jews. The survivors are all liars. In short, there was no Holocaust.]

* Irving was "forum shopping," i.e. looking for a place where he could sue Lipstadt.

*Deborah Lipstadt and her lawyers set out to “prove he was a liar and they proved it.”

*Lipstadt’s depiction of Irving in her book, Denying the Holocaust, was totally accurate,” and the trial was a “disaster” for Irving.

*“Both these people are fighters….Lipstadt felt she had to fight for history and truth… and “both of them enjoyed this battle.” [Comment: Had he read the book he would know that was wrong. I am pleased with the outcome (who wouldn't be pleased with such a verdict? -- but I wish it had never happened.]

*Doesn’t understand why David Irving brought this suit. He was “outgunned in legal terms. He was outgunned on the facts".

*It is possible that Irving was playing to his "new" audience, right wingers, and holocaust denier groups.

* There was no way Irving could win this case [having a jury would not have made a difference.]

*Reid repeated on a number of occasions, “She’s a fighter. She felt was fighting for truth and history and it frustrated her not to take the stand.” [Comment: That's right.]

*She did not take the stand because we were frightened that Irving would use the opportunity to introduce correspondence I had received when writing my book about Holocaust deniers. The letter, from Professor Yehuda Bauer, suggested that I include more about Irving. It is, by the way, standard operating procedure for other historians to comment on a manuscript and give suggestions. This is what Bauer was doing.

Had I taken the stand, Reid believed, Irving would use this to argue you see there was a conspiracy.

Comment: My not taking the stand had nothing to do with this material [Guttenplan got that wrong as he got many other things wrong.] First of all, that material was introduced into the trial by Irving. It was not a secret.

I did not go into the witness box, even though I wanted to, because, as Rampton repeatedly said, you are being sued for what you wrote. There is nothing you can add that will enlighten the judge on the decision he has to make. Our job is to prove David Irving is a liar. I explain this repeatedly in the book.

Comment: TR Reid had not read the book, which he told CSpan was the case when they invited him to appear. Despite this fact, a show called Book TV, had him appear even though he had not read the book about which all the controversy revolved.

* Reid was struck by the fact that Irving expected to lose. On the morning of the verdict he bumped into Irving who told him: “I am probably going to lose.” In fact, until the day before the verdict, Irving had been predicting he would win. He boasted on his website how he had convinced the judge of the rightness of his cause. The CSpan interviewer had to point out – she had clearly read the book – that because the lawyers [and Irving was acting as his own lawyer] get the verdict 24 hours before the clients; he already knew he had lost.

* According to Reid the solution for bad speech is more speech. Comment: I agree and am not against Irving speaking. In fact, Irving tried to silence me. He sued me in order to have my book withdrawn from circulation. I don't think CSpan has an obligation to broadcast a talk by a man, about whom the court said he "deliberate[ly]" distorted history. And, should CSpan choose to broadcast him, I don’t believe it should force me into a debate which is no debate.

Some final thoughts:

1. I wish CSpan had just admitted that they made a mistake from the outset and had not claimed that they were intending to just show a few clips of Irving. CSpan is an important national institution. It gets people to read and think about books. I have no desire to fight with CSpan, but they should have been more honest about how they messed up from the outset.

2. I wish CSpan had given TR Reid, a careful journalist, a chance to read my book before going on the show.

3. Finally, as I stress in the book, I was not trying to deny Irving a right to speak. I was simply refusing to be pushed into a debate which is no debate and with someone who is a proven liar. How can you debate a liar?

4. Never, in all the years I have been watching CSpan, have I seen a policy towards "balance." Why here?

5. And since they seem to be so interested in balance and fairness, how about a chance for me to go on and correct the impression given to listeners about my views?

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