Jon Wiener’s March 15 cover article, "Big Tobacco & the Historians," is a journalistic lapse. It tells the story of Robert Proctor, a historian who has long testified for plaintiffs in smoking and health cases. For almost as long, Dr. Proctor has worked extrajudicially to dissuade other historians from testifying against him.
In 2009 Proctor learned the names of University of Florida graduate students who served as research assistants to an opposing historian. On learning the names, Proctor contacted a Florida professor he thought might be sympathetic. He provided her with the students’ names and in e-mails urged her to contact, in sequence, the students’ advisers, the department chair and the complete department faculty to forbid the students from doing the work. Hints of this reached the students, and judicial discovery ensued. I took Proctor’s deposition. The article quotes the plaintiffs’ lawyer, but I was not contacted.
Wiener’s assertion that the judge who reviewed Proctor’s conduct found "nothing improper" is stupefying. The court found Proctor’s conduct to be "tortious," "designed to strike at the heart" of a "fair and impartial trial." It described Proctor’s efforts to humiliate the graduate students as the "lowest of the low."
Nor did Proctor produce his correspondence to defendants, as your article implies. Rather, he deleted the damaging e-mails from his computer when he learned they might be sought. They were ultimately obtained from the University of Florida’s server. The court found that Proctor had engaged in an unsuccessful cover-up.
Nor did Louis Kyriakoudes, another testifying historian, who works with Proctor, withdraw because of "harassment." He withdrew when an e-mail of his was discovered advising Proctor to change and falsify testimony. The article, including its attacks on opposing historians, reads as though written by Proctor himself. It is false.
One expects more from The Nation.
THEODORE M. GROSSMAN
Theodore M. Grossman boasts on his web page at JonesDay.com that he is Big Tobacco’s "stopper" in winning high-profile cases. For years he has worked to stop smokers with cancer from collecting damages; now he’s trying to stop Stanford historian Robert Proctor from testifying as an expert witness on behalf of such smokers.