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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SPLC To Apologize to Prof. Guenter Lewy For False Accusations

Guenter Lewy, an emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachetts, filed a defamation lawsuit in 2008 against the Southern Poverty Law Center, and two one of its employees, (including Mark Potok) David Holthouse.

The lawsuit arose from Lewy's historical research in which he determined that the evidence of a Turkish genocide against the Armenians was inconclusive.  SPLC's Intelligence Report labeled Lewy, who is a Holocaust survivor, the equivalent of a Holocaust denier and also asserted that Lewy was paid by Turkey.  Among other things SPLC asserted:

"Lewy is one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide."
Lewy sued for defamation, and a court recently ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.  As of today, the link at SPLC's website containing the accusations still is up and running.

I have learned that Lewy and SPLC recently settled the case, and as part of the settlement, SPLC and its employees will apologize to Lewy and publish the apology in numerous publications including the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Here is the text of the apology [added:  see updates below as to text of apology]:
TEXT REMOVED - See Update 2 below
I am still working to confirm any other details of the settlement and will update this post if new information becomes available.

As I have noted before, SPLC is very quick to label people with the worst epithets, and it is good to see that someone stood up to SPLC's tactics.

Update:  After this post, I was contacted by the attorney for Prof. Lewy, indicating that the text above is not accurate, and that what follows below is the only apology to be offered between the parties.  The source of my original post above was very reliable, and there must have been changes just prior to signing. 

Prof. Lewy's attorney stated that there was a financial settlement, and that while he could not disclose the amount, Prof. Lewy was very happy.  Additionally, SPLC will be printing the retraction on its website.

In light of the e-mail from Prof. Lewy's attorney, I am printing the update, as follows:
Retraction and Apology

In the summer 2008 issue of its Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, was part of a network of persons, financed by the Government of Turkey, who dispute that the tragic events of World War I constituted an Armenian genocide. We now realize that we misunderstood Professor Lewy's scholarship, were wrong to assert that he was part of a network financed by the Turkish Government, and were wrong to assume that any scholar who challenges the Armenian genocide narrative necessarily has been financially compromised by the Government of Turkey. We hereby retract the assertion that Professor Lewy was or is on the Government of Turkey's payroll.

To our knowledge, Professor Lewy has never sought to deny or minimize the deaths of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey; nor has he sought to minimize the Ottoman regime's grievous wartime miscalculations or indifference to human misery in a conflict earmarked by widespread civilian suffering on all sides. What he has argued in his book, The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide, and elsewhere is that the present historical record does not substantiate a premeditated plan by the Ottoman regime to destroy because of ethnicity, religion ,or nationality, as opposed to deport for political-military reasons, the Armenian population. In this view, he is joined by such distinguished scholars as Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton University. As additional troves of archival information come to light, Professor Lewy advocates greater study of this contentious subject.
We deeply regret our errors and offer our sincerest apologies to Professor Lewy.

Professor Lewy adds the following comment:

The SPLC has made important contributions to the rule of law and the struggle against bigotry. Thus I took no pleasure in commencing legal action against it. But the stakes, both for my reputation as a scholar and for the free and unhindered discussion of controversial topics, were compelling.  It must be possible to defend views that contradict conventional wisdom without being called the agent of a foreign government.. 

Lewy v SPLC - Retraction and Apology

Update 2 - 9-30-2010:  At the request of Prof. Lewy's attorney, I have removed the original text of the Retraction (although I don't think I was required to do so).  Prof. Lewy's attorney states that the version originally posted never was agreed-upon text, and that the only agreed-upon text of a retraction is what now appears in the first update.

Related Posts:
Southern Poverty Law Center Completes Its Descent Into Madness
Confirmed - SPLC Exaggerated About Klan In Rhode Island
SPLC's Democratic Party Mission

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  1. SPLC is a classic example of Pournelle's Iron Law (that any bureaucratic organization will eventually be taken over by people who work for the organization itself rather than its purported ends).

    It did good work once upon a time, but has long ago degenerated into a sick parody of itself. If one had to invent an organization with the express purpose of scaring Jewish grandmothers into staying on the Deemocratic [sic] plantation, one would probably come up with something quite close to present-day SPLC.

  2. I don't know much about the history of the SPLC, but I do know that they currently are little more than a fund-raising organization whose purpose for existence is to continue its own existence.

    That's a fine apology; my only suggested change would be to substitute "the" for "any" in the first sentence of the second paragraph.

    Do that and almost its entirety could be turned into a macro for future use.

  3. "Unfounded charges of this kind, we acknowledge, create a climate of intimidation and limit responsible inquiry..."

    That's pretty much why the SPLC pays Potok $143,000 donor-dollars a year. Heaven forbid we have free speech breaking out.

    Holthouse is a relatively new SPLC PR hack and certainly not in the same league as Minister for Propaganda Potok.


    Holthouse's previous writing gig was for High Times, so they're probably paying him next to nothing. After this debacle they may not be paying him at all.

  4. Maybe I'm out of touch, but I've never heard of the "Southern Preposterous Lie Center" doing this with anyone they smeared.

    Apologize, publicly retract, and pay damages? I thought all they did was smear.

  5. Just a couple years ago, r/w bloggers were either not mentioning the SPLC or linking to them as a reliable source. For instance, ReasonMag linked to them as a credible source a couple times and you should be able to find comments from me calling them on it.

    What you won't find are things like anyone else at all helping me point out that a few years ago the SPLC joined an immig. group headed by someone linked to the MX government. What you'll have trouble finding are others pointing out that they misled about statistics a couple years ago.

    But, as soon as they criticized the 'partiers, all heck broke loose among r/w bloggers. Prior to that their protest had largely been like their protest against high spending during the eight glorious Bush years: silent.

  6. Except, of course, for right-wing GUN bloggers, who have been calling out the SPLC as the slandering big-government propagandists they are for more than two decades.

    The reason you haven't previously heard of the SPLC apologizing is because NY Times v. Sullivan made it practically impossible for any public figure to sue for libel anymore. But as it turns out, academic are NOT included in this disability, much to the chagrin of David Holthouse.

  7. This verdict has far reaching consequences: it has made it clear that opinion-thugs and NGO-bullies can no longer demonize any target they choose and replace scholarship with pressure. That must be a victory for free inquiry...