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Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
Sign Petition Against C-Span Telecast of
By DAVID ZHOU
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
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.
She had also been scheduled to appear on the
station's "Book TV" program to discuss her
forthcoming book, "History on Trial: My Day in
Court With David Irving." It recounts the libel
lawsuit Irving filed against her in a British court
for labeling him a Holocaust denier in her 1993
book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault
on Truth and Memory." He lost the lawsuit in
right shows Mr Irving and Tom Reid of The
Washington Post under attack from Lipstadt's
supporters outside the High Court on the final day.
Lipstadt's law firm had evidently tipped off the
mob to attend that morning
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,
Lipstadt had refused to appear on C-SPAN upon
learning of the planned broadcast time of Irving's
"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
"Within forty-eight hours, we had more than two
hundred scholars on the petition," said Wyman
Institute Director Rafael Medoff.
The petition attracted 570 signatures.
"Clearly, this had an
impact on C-SPAN," 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.
The level of interest in this issue was thrust
into high gear by the involvement of Irving, who is
a particularly controversial figure.
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.
High Court Judge Charles Gray, who
presided over the libel case, wrote in his
decision that Irving had "persistently and
deliberately misrepresented and manipulated
historical evidence...is anti-Semitic and racist
and that he associates with right wing extremists
who promote neo-Nazism."
"That says it all about the quality of his
so-called scholarly merit," said Medoff, referring
to Gray's comments.
"Over the years, Irving has proved himself a
resourceful researcher (his neo-Nazi contacts in
Germany have helped), but his work has been
tendentious and transgressed every rule that
historians are supposed to follow," Coolidge
Professor of History David G. Blackbourn,
who signed the petition, wrote in an e-mail.
"He is more and more convinced of the notion
that the Holocaust is a fraud," said Saltonstall
Professor of History Charles S. Maier '60,
another signatory. "He has the potential to be a
good historian, but he has become twisted by this
point of view."
Other scholars offered even more pointed
"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.
(left) 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
"I don't use the phrase the 'Holocaust' because
I don't believe in the marketing approach of the
'Holocaust,'" he said. "But I went into more detail
about the individual aspects of the Nazi atrocities
against the Jews and used original sources."
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?'"
Irving said this mindset was "in the best
traditions of American journalism."
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
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.
"An issue of fact is being confused with an
interpretation of significance," said Maier.
"If C-SPAN wants to cover him, let them cover
him," said Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at
the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and
Public Policy and a signatory. "But C-SPAN should
not be balancing the Holocaust with a denier."
"This is not balance," said Lipstadt. "This is a
guy who is saying the historical equivalent of 'the
earth is flat.'"
to the media scandal surrounding Prof Lipstadt's
attempt to silence C-Span and the history
The Irving -