THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY

Portland, Ore.

The Nation has published lists of courageous and cowardly elected officials many times. It is time now to applaud the seven House Republicans (Ron Paul, Roscoe Bartlett, Wayne Gilchrest, Walter Jones, Steven LaTourette, James Leach, Jerry Moran) who voted against the “enemy combatant” bill (HR 6166), and condemn the thirty-four (!) Democrats who voted for it (Robert Andrews, John Barrow, Melissa Bean, Sanford Bishop, Dan Boren, Leonard Boswell, Allen Boyd, Sherrod Brown, Ben Chandler, Bud Cramer, Henry Cuellar, Lincoln Davis, Artur Davis, Chet Edwards, Bob Etheridge, Harold Ford, Bart Gordon, Stephanie Herseth, Brian Higgins, Tim Holden, Jim Marshall, Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Charles Melancon, Michael Michaud, Dennis Moore, Collin Peterson, Earl Pomeroy, Mike Ross, John Salazar, David Scott, John Spratt, John Tanner, Gene Taylor).

JOHN M. SHAW


EAST OR WEST, BOSTON IS BEST

Boise, Idaho

Trudy Lieberman writes that Massachusetts hospitals spend 44 percent more than other states [“No Rx in Massachusetts,” Sept. 18]. I say, thank God. Our son sat in a New Orleans hospital, before Katrina, waiting for a cancerous testicle to be removed. For ten hours, while he lay in pre-op, the hospital’s insurance department denied coverage for his surgery, because it did not like the way his insurance carrier worded its contract. After surgery, neither the doctor’s office nor the hospital could get his treatment together. A month went by, and we encouraged my son and his wife to leave for Boston, where she was beginning a post-doc. Arrangements for our son’s treatment were made before he even arrived at Massachusetts General. Everyone deserves this level of care.

SALLY RYCHERT


LIEBERMAN REPLIES

New York City

Sally Rychert implies that quality medical care is connected to spending more money. Nothing is further from the truth. The United States spends more money on healthcare than any other country and yet our health statistics are abysmal when compared with other developed countries and some that are less developed. Medical errors, insurance snafus and delayed care occur every day in every state. The financial incentives are misaligned everywhere, not just in Louisiana. Poor care, which Rychert’s son experienced in New Orleans, can occur in Boston, New York, Miami or Los Angeles, where spending on medical treatment is high. The US health system is in dire need of reform, but more money thrown into the pot is not the solution.

TRUDY LIEBERMAN


BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES

Washington, DC

George Archibald, a former employee of the Washington Times, is virtually the only named source in Max Blumenthal’s October 9 “Hell of a Times.” He also is clearly the overall architect of the piece. Archibald resigned under pressure from the Times in August 2005. In a series of e-mails beginning October 25 and in a meeting in my office between Christmas and New Year’s Day, he pleaded to come back but was not rehired for well-documented reasons that he is thoroughly aware of. Since then Archibald has engaged in an increasingly vicious and fictitious cyber-campaign against the Times, and me in particular. Blumenthal was aware of Archibald’s employment history at the Times but chose not to mention it in his article.

Every situation involving me described by Archibald is a fabrication. Every quotation attributed to me by Archibald is false and repugnant. The newsroom described by Blumenthal in his article with Archibald’s help is a fiction.

In addition, Blumenthal’s smear of my wife, Marian, who has absolutely nothing to do with the editorial direction of the Washington Times, is beneath contempt. It is fascinating to note that Blumenthal chose to delete this portion of my wife’s e-mail to Archibald: “Your charges are untrue or, at best, wildly distorted out of all proportion–and you KNOW they are.”

But then this article is not about Marian, me or editor in chief Wesley Pruden. It is a desperate effort to undercut the fine work of the hundreds of men and women who have made the Times one of the most powerful newspapers in America and the rest of the world.

Please do not regard my failure to mention other portions of the article as an acknowledgment of their veracity. In the interest of brevity, I am merely citing a few key examples to illustrate the overall mendacity of Blumenthal’s piece.

FRANCIS B. COOMBS JR.
Managing editor, The Washington Times


Crofton, Md.

Nation attacks Washington Times. Rabid dog bites man. I have no need to defend a single word of mine, because we have freedom of speech here in America–use it or lose it, comrades. No one died and made Max “Son of Sid” Blumenthal commissar of the thought police.

Actually, I enjoy his notion that my husband and I are a political power couple à la Bill and Hillary, or Julius and Ethel. Speaking of the latter, I’ll never forget attending a “mass meeting” at some big venue in New York back in my left-wing days. I believe it was Ron Radosh at the podium, attempting to convey the bad news from the freshly declassified Venona intercepts that, yeah, Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs had been guilty as charged. All around me ranks of old Communist Party stalwarts raspingly chanted, “Lie-YER, lie-YER, lie-YER!” to drown him out and shut him up. I thought to myself, What a nasty bunch, and Blumenthal et al. creep me out the same way.

MARIAN COOMBS


Phoenix

Max Blumenthal’s article was accurate and a strong contribution to the history of journalism. I know from friends at the Washington Times that editors Wesley Pruden and Francis Coombs have conducted a relentless campaign in the newsroom via the company’s internal e-mail and bulletin board to besmirch my character and integrity as a named source in the story. Forget the fact that Blumenthal had more than a dozen other Times sources currently in the newsroom who confirmed everything I said on the record.

Pruden’s statement to the Times staff in a recent memo regarding “the speculations of addled idle minds that would be more usefully employed at Alcoholics Anonymous” was particularly vicious, as I have been a member of AA for many years, as was my mother, sober for thirty-five years, thanks to AA. Pruden hands out this gratuitous back-stab as an intended smear of me without answering Blumenthal’s very serious points about the racism, sexism, bullying management style and so forth of Pruden and Coombs.

The fact is, Pruden and Coombs have no answer, because Blumenthal was correct in every aspect on these issues and the stated views of Pruden and Coombs. Their only answer–character assassination of Blumenthal’s sources without countering the substantive facts–should tell your readers that the piece was dead-on correct.

Coombs’s assertion [in his letter, posted on MediaBistro’s FishBowlDC] that I resigned under pressure from the Times is an absolute lie. I retired on my own terms. Coombs attended my going-away lunch in September with retired Senator Harry Byrd Jr. of Virginia and many of the newspaper’s staunch employees and several dozen Washington movers and shakers over the years, and waxed eloquent about our journalistic feats together. Coombs’s denunciations of me now, after the paper chose me for four Pulitzer Prize nominations for investigative reporting, is hard to fathom, except to note that Coombs desperately wants to become editor in chief. Many people in the company hope he doesn’t move into that role.

I am a firsthand witness over a period of almost two decades to Coombs’s racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and bullying. Coombs and Pruden have engaged in smear attacks against me and others who question the direction they have taken the paper and their micro-managing and bullying.

GEORGE ARCHIBALD


Silver Spring, Md

As a former (albeit short-lived) staffer at the Washington Times, I was eager to read Max Blumenthal’s exposé. What I found was largely a rehash of revelations about Francis Coombs’s hateful but well-known views on race, along with a fair summary of the struggle for the Times‘s soul. Missing is a larger indictment of a newsroom culture that quashes journalistic talent for the sake of an extremist ideology.

Readers may get the impression that editors like Coombs and Stacy McCain have handpicked a staff of right-wing crazies to support their agenda–but that’s not the case. Coombs and especially McCain, a virulent misogynist, are reviled by most Times staffers, who would like nothing more than to turn the crass propaganda sheet into a respectable newspaper.

One detail did give me a jolt: Blumenthal writes that on August 22, Coombs devoted page 1 to a positive review of Pat Buchanan’s anti-immigrant screed. How typical. In my brief tenure at the Sunday books section, I was pre-empted again and again by McCain (presumably with Coombs’s OK) placing fawning “news” stories about right-wing books in the main section, even though said books had already been assigned to experts for objective review.

AMANDA KOLSON HURLEY


Lansing, Mich.

Max Blumenthal’s piece is badly reported and irresponsible journalism, and his use of unnamed sources makes his much-anticipated story read thin. His reliance on George Archibald as one of only a few named sources likely provoked laughter in several Washington-area circles. As a hit job, this story failed. As a dish piece, it is somnambulistic. It might have been a good business profile had it not jetted off into tabloidville. Sadly, the story tacitly maligns some terrific reporting by some very decent folks, like Bill Gertz, Jerry Seper, Rowan Scarborough, Audrey Hudson and Steve Dinan, among many others. Despite the Moonie whisperings, there are many talented folks at the Times who have endured for years and whose work is just as commendable as anything published in the oft left-leaning Washington Post or New York Times. They should be honored for informing the debate inside and outside the Beltway and reminding readers–not professional wonkers and politically agitated squawkers–that there often is another side that deserves equal attention. On a personal note, I have had drinks socially with managing editor Fran Coombs several times and am happy to report that his conduct as a gentleman was always above reproach.

ANDREA BILLUPS


BLUMENTHAL REPLIES

New York City

Andrea Billups claims my reporting “tacitly maligns” reporters like Audrey Hudson. In a letter to The Nation, Hudson disagreed. Billups also asserts that while having drinks with Fran Coombs, he behaved like a perfect gentleman. Melissa Hopkins, who alleges Coombs sexually harassed her then sabotaged her career, would disagree.

Coombs, for his part, baselessly labels George Archibald “the overall architect” of my piece. I in fact relied on a dozen sources, many of whom are current Times staffers who would be fired for going on the record. Further, Coombs does not mention anywhere in his letter the alleged victim of his sexual harassment, Hopkins. Nor does he mention former Times arts editor Marlene Johnson, who bluntly described him to me as “a racist.” Johnson is an African-American, so she perhaps does not count to Coombs.

MAX BLUMENTHAL