Smirnoff—New York Times Correspondence

1. New York Times article by Julia Bosman on firing of Marc Smirnoff (but not Carol Ann Fitzgerald)

2. Smirnoff response to New York Times

Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2012 1:05 AM
To: nytnews
Subject: Request for Corrections, Retraction, and an Apology

[We also sent this letter to the Letters Department]

10 August 2012

Dear New York Times Letters Department:

I hereby request that the New York Times publish this letter in full in its Letters to the Editor department as soon as possible. While I understand that you request that all such letters be limited to 150 words, Julie Bosman’s August 8 piece is so befouled with inaccuracies (and even two libels) that I must request more space.

Please, New York Times, do the right and fair thing and provide me the full space needed to fairly defend Carol Ann Fitzgerald and myself.

I also request that you give Carol Ann Fitzgerald and me a prominent and sincere public apology and retraction.

Please let me know ASAP whether you plan to use this letter and whether you deem it fair to issue the apology and retraction requested. If you choose not to publish this letter, we will post it elsewhere but we are giving you first right of refusal, which means we trust others at The Times Not Named Julie Bosman, even though delaying the posting of this letter will cost us immediacy.

Sincerely,

Marc Smirnoff, founder, The Oxford American


 10 August 2012

Dear New York Times,

As a long-time reader of the New York Times, I’m among those who have been persuaded by its frequently nuanced and even-handed reporting to trust it.

Imagine, then, my shock at finding myself the target of Julie Bosman’s distorted, biased, and inaccurate August 8 piece, “Editor Fired Following Harassment Accusation.”

Among Bosman’s tactics is to invariably describe me with a negative term whenever an impartial one would be fairer. So instead of “reprimanding,” Bosman contends that I “berate” (used twice); instead of “getting angry,” I “explode in anger”; instead of mounting a public defense, I mount an “aggressive” public defense; instead of disagreeing with OA Publisher Warwick Sabin and his board for firing me, I “lash out.” Instead of protesting this firing, I “angrily” protest. Instead of gesturing from a living-room chair, I gesture “wildly.”

The Times masthead might list Bosman as a reporter, but she seems to regard herself as judge, jury, and mind-reader: how else, after mentioning the “tumultuous aftermath of [my] dismissal,” could she have otherwise known--since I absolutely did not tell her any such thing--that I “seethed privately”?

Bosman also writes, with similar fake insight, that an internal Oxford American “investigation…produced detailed accounts of a workplace rife with sexual harassment.” I have yet to see these “detailed accounts” myself--I have yet to hear why I was fired, in fact--but rather than informing me of any specific charges that she found out about and asking me to respond to them (I would’ve refuted the workplace allegation), Bosman treats the findings and conclusion of the OA board’s “internal investigation” as incontestable truth.

In weirdly disregarding the primary lesson of any respectable Journalism 101 course, Bosman incessantly avoids the concept of “alleged.” Instead, she pretends to have absolute knowledge and truth about scenes that she did not witness and that are, in fact, hotly contested by the parties involved. 

For example, instead of writing that I “allegedly insisted” that an intern ride home from a mountain retreat with me (I told both Bosman and the Oxford American “investigator” that I did not “insist,” but invited the intern to ride home with me), Bosman twice writes, as if her view were fact and not guesswork and with no bothersome alleged about it, that I “insisted” the intern ride home with me.

Bosman then writes that I “asked [the intern] if she wanted to hold hands.” But she pointedly omits my explanation for my “wanna hold my hand?” comment, which I repeatedly told her I meant as a joke--an obvious joke that was reciprocated in kind.

After first implying I forced the intern into my car (that’s what “insists” means, right?), Bosman writes that I drove the intern to “[my] favorite make-out spot.” And that’s where Bosman leaves that point.

But, as I emphasized both with Bosman (during our three-hour interview) and the “internal investigator” (during a different three-hour interview), that comment (however lame) was yet another one of my attempts at joking, joking that lacked any sinister undercurrent.

“The make-out spot” in question is the mountain’s most popular scenic overlook, which, during the afternoon the intern and I visited, was filled with families and apparent tourists who seemed to be there for the same reason we were: to check out the stunning view. As far as I know, the site has no reputation for being a make-out spot.

If New York Times reporters want to insert their opinions into their journalism, I would prefer they are forthright and transparent when doing so. Bosman, however, trickily presents as fact scenes and comments and allegations from one side (my opponent’s) while ignoring each specific counterclaim from the other or competing side (mine).

But that is not the worst of it. Unfortunately, Bosman’s worst infractions amount to libel.

The first libel is her assertion that “Mr. Smirnoff’s account [of the trip to the scenic overlook] matched the description the intern provided the magazine’s board.” That is untrue.

If our accounts did, in fact, match, as Bosman claims, that would mean that the intern welcomed and happily participated in mutual banter and joking and that she never, ever felt sexually harassed in any way by my language or behavior, and that she only changed her tune--and her story--when I fired her the next day for unrelated (but real) insubordination.

If our accounts did, in fact, match, the intern, in other words, would admit that she is lying.

Bosman’s second libel is when she claims that I “acknowledged doing many of the things [I] was accused of, including hugging, patting, and kissing interns on the top of their heads.” That too is untrue.

When the “investigator” asked whether I had hugged, patted, or kissed any interns over my twenty years of OA service, I answered truthfully: “Yes a few--but innocently, and with no sexual intent or implication.” The only transgression to which I confessed was serving alcohol to two under-aged OA interns. In other words, I acknowledged one (repeat: one) misdeed--not Bosman’s “many.”

As I more than once told Bosman, no one--not the “investigator,” the OA Board, or OA Publisher Warwick Sabin--ever informed me what I was “accused of,” nor, later, when I was fired, the reasons for my firing. So even if I wanted to “acknowledge doing the many things I was accused of doing,” I could not without knowing what the accusations were.

All I can say with certainty is that I answered the “investigator’s” questions truthfully and I denied any insinuation of sexual harassment.

Bosman is also inaccurate in claiming that “things” at our mountain retreat “quickly went awry, beginning when Mr. Smirnoff berated young staff members playing drinking games...."

I did not “berate young staff members.”

I berated an individual (singular). The individual I “berated” (or, if you wanted to be impartial, you could say, “reprimanded”) was Senior Editor Wes Enzinna, age 29. Bosman knows this because I discussed Enzinna’s misconduct in detail with her, including this instance.

Not only was Enzinna the individual I “berated,” he was the highest-ranking Oxford American employee to register complaints against Carol Ann Fitzgerald (and possibly me) on July 7, 2012, the very day after I threatened to fire him.

Again, although we have never heard the specific charges against us (hard as that may be to believe), Fitzgerald and I are not interchangeable. And by logical inference of the questions separately posed to us, we have decided that she was, in fact, fired for a different reason from me.

We guess that Carol Ann Fitzgerald was most likely fired for one reason--because Senior Editor Wes Enzinna accused her of sexually harassing him. Stretching the credibility of just about everybody but Bosman and The Oxford American board and OA Publisher Warwick Sabin, Enzinna waited until July 7, 2012 to report his outrageous but very serious claim that Fitzgerald sexually harassed him on October 8, 2011--nine months earlier!

This timeline is crucial. Remember please that the date--July 7--on which Enzinna finally said anything about the alleged ancient harassment was also (coincidentally!) the very day after I threatened to fire him.

Though The OA’s Employee Handbook, which The OA Board claimed to be abiding by in its self-proclaimed “thorough investigation,” emphasizes twice that all complaints against colleagues be made “immediately,” Enzinna waited…nine months.

As far as Bosman’s unreliability goes, here’s the clincher: despite his leading role in this scandal, Wes Enzinna earns no mention in her “reporting.” Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Could Bosman’s silence about Wes Enzinna have anything at all to do with the fact that Enzinna recently wrote a feature for The New York Times Magazine (on May 16, 2012) and Bosman doesn’t wish to tarnish (or even name!) a colleague?

I may have collected too many enemies over my twenty long years in publishing, but even if you want to believe what Bosman says of me, please, fair observers, don’t ignore how Bosman mistreats Carol Ann Fitzgerald--for eight years the magazine’s profoundly talented managing editor and, after me, its longest-serving employee. During this time, Fitzgerald was also The OA’s visionary art editor, an exemplary contributing writer and blogger, and the most trusted and beloved OA staffer in the sometimes very touchy and hypersensitive world of writers, artists, and coworkers.

This is the same editorial superstar Bosman snidely dispatches in an astonishing aside as “[Smirnoff’s] longtime girlfriend…who was fired along with [him].”

That’s it for Bosman on Fitzgerald: a dehumanizing one-liner.

Such condescension and misogyny can be expected from hateful radio shock-jocks and superficial gossip-mongers…but from a New York Times “reporter”?

A Times footnote to the “earlier version” of Bosman’s piece stated that her “article said incorrectly that Marc Smirnoff was suing the magazine over his dismissal. He is not.”

In fact, that “correction” is incorrect. I am still actively deciding whether to sue The Oxford American Literary Project, Inc., and several of its employees and board members, and, “correction” or not, The New York Times has no say in the matter. (Nor does it have any say about how we react to The Times itself for its and Bosman’s wildly mean-spirited and widely circulated libel.)

Finally, I must mention two further Bosman mistakes before leaving. Bosman claims that I “demanded” that The Oxford American “be stripped of the name [I] gave it two decades ago.” Readers of the long defense on our website will see that her statement is false and what I actually wrote was: “Since it is something else now, we request that the name of The Oxford American be changed.” A request is not a demand--and I have not altered that sentence since posting our defense on August 6, 2012. 

Bosman also wrote that the shutters of our house are blue. They are black.

Thanks to Bosman’s worldwide battering, Carol Ann and I, however, are both black-and-blue.

For those readers who wish to read a different version of this controversy--a true version--please visit our website editorsinlove.com, where we’ve posted our full statement, and even more analysis of Bosman’s “reporting” (incredibly, she’s made even more errors than I am listing here).

Thank you for listening.

Marc Smirnoff, founder, The Oxford American

Conway, Arkansas

3. First response from New York Times; “Senior Editor for Standards” Greg Brock acknowledges receipt of Smirnoff complaint

On Sat, Aug 11, 2012 at 1:46 PM, Brock, Greg <brockg@nytimes.com> wrote:

Dear Mr. Smirnoff and Ms. Fitzgerald:

A news assistant who monitors our e-mail on the weekend forwarded this to me.  I just wanted you to know that we did receive it and that first thing on Monday I will discuss it with the editors who handled this coverage. Someone will be in touch after that.

On the issue of the Letter to the Editor, that decision is solely up to that staff, as you know.  We have no involvement in their decisions (or they in ours).

Sincerely,

Greg Brock

Senior Editor for Standards

4. Smirnoff replies to “Senior Editor for Standards” Greg Brock:

On Sun, Aug 12, 2012 at 8:17 PM, marc smirnoff <godisinthedetails1@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear Mr Brock

Two points:

1. I hope you can factcheck or otherwise verify the claims in my letter (I hardly expect you to accept them blindly). We fact-checked everything we ever ran at our magazine and never once got sued. I say all this because our greatest fear is that you merely contact Bosman which prompts her to merely repeat, verbally, her printed falsehoods; and then you all "officially" respond by saying you are standing by your reporter.

We hope to get fair treatment in the pages where the abuse occurred. Failing that, we WILL get fair treatment elsewhere.

2. I can't say what motived Bosman's sloppiness or intent but a New York Times reporter willing to abuse and distort in the way she did is both a sad and frightening spectacle. Please, please have the honor and good faith to handle my complaints judiciously. I ask for no favoritism but hope Bosman gets none either. 

I can't tell you how many people have believed Bosman's inaccuracies. So many places online that I copped to the intern's charges and other charges. That is utterly false. But Bosman has convinced so many people it's true. 

Sincerely,

Marc Smirnoff

5. “Senior Editor for Standards” Greg Brock of the New York Times finds nothing wrong with standards of Julie Bosman of the New York Times:

On Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 4:25 PM, Brock, Greg <brockg@nytimes.com> wrote:

Dear Mr. Smirnoff,

We have reviewed your complaints about the article on your departure from the Oxford American and we stand by the article and the information it conveys. 

A review of the material from all the interviews, including extensive discussions with you, shows that your own statements formed the basis for many of the points made in the article. Documents and other interviews provided supporting material.  In the hours before the article went to press Ms. Bosman went over much of the material with you on the phone. It should not have come as a surprise.

It is not our intention to debate each point, but to take one example:  You complained about the phrase in which you are described as "exploding in anger'' at the intern. Ms. Bosman's notes have you describing to her how you yelled at the intern in front of others and told her to get her "f***ing Princeton ass'' to the kitchen to help clean up. We conclude it is reasonable, based on your own words, to describe this as exploding in anger. We omitted many harsh details from the intern's statement, some of which you also acknowledged, including the fact that you took her shoes and placed them by your own bed as a prank. 

Your position that your intentions were crucial to understanding your actions — that you didn't mean them in an offensive or sexual way -- was fairly and substantively conveyed in the article in more than one place. Our article quoted you on this and also stated that you denied any form of sexual harassment.  

Although you may not agree with our assessment, I do hope that it is clear that we took your complaints very seriously. We read all of the e-mails you sent and went over each point in depth.

Sincerely,

Greg

________________________________________________________

Gregory E. Brock

Senior Editor for Standards

The New York Times

               ~

620 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10018

              ~

212.556.8011

6. Smirnoff responds to Greg Brock’s praise of New York Times:

On Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 6:45 PM, marc smirnoff <godisinthedetails1@gmail.com> wrote:

dear Mr Brock,

1. Ms. Bosman did not go "over much of the material" in her followup phone-call with me. That is a lie. She went over nonessential items, mostly. Mostly she focused on the "timeline," (i.e. she asked when we up to the mountain, what day we came [day back—SMIRNOFF TYPO IN ORIGINAL], etc.). In any case, you should employ impartial factcheckers. To rely on an inaccurate reporter's "fact-checking" of her own piece (if only in irrelevant bits) is a a policy doomed to failure in sad cases like this--and in cases like Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, et al. That's the achilles heel of this strategy--allowing the inaccurate to police themselves. That's also why I requested that you get an impartial source to factcheck my allegations and Ms. Bosman's allegations. Ms. Bosman is your impartial source? That's really stupid and mean of you, Mr Brock.

2. The only example you wish to analyze in any kind of depth is an aside, is the "explode in anger" quote? Yes, it is fair to defend this instance of "explode in anger" but I merely provided it in a list (see my original letter) with many other examples to show her bias, not to dispute that the solitary use of "explode in anger" was by itself indefensible. Yet you focus on just one item in the list and not the MEANING of the list!

3. Which isn't to say that I agree with Ms. Bosman's use of the phrase. She says I "exploded in anger" but does not say why. She gives zero context but leaves this clearcut implication: that I "exploded in anger" for no good reason other than I am irrational. In your own words, you give me all the evidence I need to demonstrate why your thinking is profoundly unfair on this point: "Ms. Bosman's notes have you describing to her how you yelled at the intern in front of others and told her to get her "f***ing Princeton ass'' to the kitchen to help clean up." 

In other words, the Great and All Important Greg Brock deems it important to learn for HIMSELF WHY Ms. Bosman used the phrase "exploded in anger," but he obviously doesn't think it's important for NYTimes readers to get the same explanation.

That to me is hypocritical and disappointing and hubristic. 

Bosses sometimes explode in anger; that is true. I was a boss and I did in this instance, that is true too. The question here is whether there was a defensible reason for it. 

Greg Brock is condoning Julie Bosman's unfairness. 

4. "Your position that your intentions were crucial to understanding your actions — that you didn't mean them in an offensive or sexual way -- was fairly and substantively conveyed in the article in more than one place."

That was a secondary position, not my main position. My main position was that the intern lied about me when she said I sexually harassed her. For you all to print that I agreed with the intern's analysis of our controversy (including the fact that she claims I sexually harassed her) is the biggest falsehood and libel of all in Ms. Bosman's smear piece and of it: and yet you Mr. Brock say nothing about it. You don't address it. You focus on secondary claims--even on something that I didn't complain about. 

5. In the meantime, Mr. Brock I will pass along your despicable rationalizations not only to my libel lawyer, but to an endless stream of media people (editors, writers, etc.).  I absolutely disagree that you treated my complaints seriously--please don't pull a Bosman and put words into my mouth. I think you absolutely mishandled complaints and in this response I give logical specifics for that view, not empty verbiage.

You ignored my most severe and damaging points and believed everything Ms. Bosman told you. Can't see that if I am complaining about her behavior she needs to be investigated rather than assumed to be telling the truth? 

In the lackluster form of Greg Brock I gave the Times a chance, after printing Ms. Bosman's lies and libels, to "investigate" those lies and libels impartially and intelligently and you, Mr. Brock, came up short in both areas. Now it's time for the court of pubic opinion and the libel courts to have their say.

Or maybe there is someone at the Times with more honor and brains than you:

Please Mr. Brisbane! Please editor! Please publisher! Please someone care about this! 

Regretfully,

Marc Smirnoff

7. Another New York Times ethicist, “Public Editor” Arthur Brisbane also analyzes behavior of New York Times; finds it perfect:


On Thu, Aug 16, 2012 at 9:59 AM, nytimes, public <public@nytimes.com> wrote:

Mr. Smirnoff: I have had a chance to query Times editors about the concerns you express. Ms. Bosman's editors state that the two accounts -- yours and the intern's -- are similar. The account of the intern, I was told, came from her affidavit while your account came in an interview with you. Clearly, you disagree with The Times position on this. Unless there is clear documentation -- recordings, written documents, etc. -- to demonstrate a significant disparity in the two accounts, I don't believe I can bring any more light to the question.

Sincerely,

Art Brisbane

public editor

8. Smirnoff replies to “Public Editor” Arthur Brisbane of the New York Times:

Dear Mr Brisbane

What is going on here?

1. I did not say that I sexually harassed the intern. I said I engaged in mutual pg-rated banter that she later used against me the day after I fired her. Are you saying she admitted all this in her affidavit (which I have not seen)? Logic compels me to say she did not. Therefore the similarities you and Bosman allege are superficial and the differences are profound. No biggie to thee though, right? You wield your power differently than we mere mortals.

2. What about all my other complaints? Silence [form from] the ombudsman!

3. What about how Bosman disgracefully and cheaply refers to Carol Ann as my mere girlfriend and ignores not only her story but her professional credits? I wasn't the only one fired you fools. Can't you count?

4. Why silence on the matter of why Bosman doesn't mention the name of her NYTimes Mag writer and sexual harasser and liar Wes Enzinna whose idiotic claim of being sexually harassed by Carol Ann surfaced only nine months and the very day after I fired him? No biggie to thee, eh? No sense of Bosman's pretend feminism in there to thee, eh? Just as long as a NYTimes mag writer is not mentioned all is well with the Grey Lady.

4. What about the lack of allegeds throughout? Bosman consistently judges-and-juries me and all aspects of this heated controversy and you see no problem with that?

5. You bullies keep picking and choosing what you [want] from my long list of complaints you wish to address. You are incapable of acknowledging even rudimentary Bosman mistakes (like the demand/request; like the false claim that I am not pursing legal action (just cuz it hasn't happened doesn't mean it won't--is that understandable to anyone there?); like the shutters!). Which means I guess means EVERYBODY not just Bosman determines what is true and false.

And that was Bosman's chief disgrace. She did not report; she judged. But you all pretended she reported. How many errors of reporting and moments of misconduct do I have to point out before you focus on more than ONE claim of mine???

What, pray, is that magic number?

CONCLUSION: A different ombudsman, I hope, would be more thorough. You have sir to notice that Bosman's dismissal of Carol Ann's humanity and professionalism is the most revealing and treacherous fact to think about.

You ignore Bosman's unethical failure at your own peril.

See ya in:

1) court

and/or

2) the court of public opinion

I gave  you all two chances to be honorable with Bosman's grotesque editorializing.

Keep in mind that all this correspondence--your words, your ill-logic, and your lazines--will be used against you. Why? Because that is fair.

In her distorted (purposefully distorted? kinda smells like it) reporting, Bosman failed to show honor and humanity. You all failed as gatekeepers and watchdogs of that kind of trash.

I guess the NYTimes will never learn what true factchecking is all about. But I do and rule number one is: You don't fucking give the fox the keys to the hen house.

Sincerely,

Marc Smirnoff

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