Berkeley’s Daily Californian denies activist’s right to respond to defamatory attack
In late May the Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley campus newspaper, published letters to the editor defaming If Americans Knew and me personally.
As soon as I became aware of these letters, online, I phoned the person responsible for the letters section, Jonathan Kuperberg, to ask if they had also been published in the print newspaper. I did not reach Kuperberg but left him a voicemail politely asking this question. Kuperberg did not return my call, but I have since learned that they were also in the print publication distributed all over the campus (and probably beyond).
I then wrote a letter to the editor (see below) and sent it to the Daily Cal early the next morning, May 30th. The following day, when I again had received no response, I re-sent the letter and copied other Daily Cal editors.
The managing editor sent a short reply email saying that the opinion editor (Kuperberg) would be considering my letter and told me that in the summer they only print letters once a week.
The Daily Cal has now printed the next week’s letters to the editor and did not include my letter. In fact, although I know personally of at least four additional letters sent to them on this topic, they printed none of them.
Meanwhile, oddly, the defamatory letter against me remains at the top of their letters section.
It doesn’t take an expert to know that such behavior is unconscionable. Newspaper ethics codes – and normal concepts of fairness – affirm the right of a person accused of wrongdoing to respond. The American Society of Newspaper Editors Statement of Principles, for example, decrees: “Persons publicly accused should be given the earliest opportunity to respond.”
In addition, letters containing factual errors should also be corrected.
My letter, and at least one other, should have been published. Last night I emailed the editors asking when they are going to print my letter. None has yet replied. I have now phoned the office and finally reached an editor in person. She said that staff members were talking about this and that Kuperberg would get back me today. I thanked her and said I look forward to hearing from him.
I truly hope that this doesn’t turn into another Michigan Radio situation, in which the Ann Arbor NPR affiliate under director Steve Schram refused to run our announcement, refused to return email and phone calls, lied about their behavior to the public, and only finally aired our announcement over a year later following public pressure.
It would be nice if Kuperberg and the Daily Cal would simply do the right thing.
Below is my letter:
Commissioner pushes pro-Israel pro-war falsehoods
To the Editor:
I was saddened that an ad about Israel-Palestine in the Daily Californian (now posted on our website) elicited vitriolic, nonfactual letters attacking me personally and our organization, If Americans Knew.
It is particularly troubling to see such a letter by a City of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission member, Thyme Siegel (“Anti-Israel ad breaks trust, propagates lies,” May 21-27).
In her letter, Ms. Siegel claims that in 1967 Israel was “attacked by all its neighbors.” However, even Israel discarded this initial falsehood many years ago. In reality, Israel perpetrated a sneak attack on Egypt that wiped out most of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground, launching what is called the Six Day war.
During that very rapid war of conquest, Israel also attacked a US Navy ship, killing or injuring 200+ Americans and destroying a $40 million ship (they eventually gave us $6 million compensation for the ship).
Even more disturbing than Ms. Siegel’s misrepresentation of history are her claims about Iran, in which she uses the same kind of inflammatory, inaccurate rhetoric that was used against Iraq, another perceived Israeli adversary.
Such mendacious rhetoric led to a tragic, unnecessary American war; the deaths of millions of Iraqi men, women, and children and thousands of Americans (many more left permanently maimed); and triggered a financial meltdown that cost multitudes of Americans their jobs, businesses, homes, and happiness.
It is time to expose and oppose the manipulation that has created war and misery for over 60 years. Americans give Israel over $8 million per day; we have the power to end the carnage. May this generation of college students be the ones to do it.
Executive Director, If Americans Knew, and President, Council for the National Interest