Monday, May 02, 2005

Aussie..... or a-hole?

Jonathan Mahler's piece in the April 11 issue of New York magazine, on Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the New York Post in 1977, contains the following exchange that supposedly happened just after the Murdoch takeover:

One of the new editors, Peter Michelmore, asked veteran reporter George Arzt about the ethnicity of the staff.
“We’re mostly Jewish,” Arzt replied.
“I haven’t met many Jews,” said Michelmore. “We were always taught that they had horns on their head.”
“Mine are retractable,” answered Arzt.


Michelmore was no flunky editor. He was a senior editor, metropolitan editor of the paper at one point. So if he said this he definitely qualifies as.... well, a jerk, or at best the possessor of a moronic sense of humor.

Well, it so happens Michelmore denies he said it. In a letter in the May 9 issue, on the stands today, he says as follows:

The quotes Jonathan Mahler attributed to me in "What Rupert Wrought" [April 11] were inaccurate and most damaging [“‘I haven’t met many Jews,’ said Michelmore. ‘We were always taught that they had horns on their head.’ ”]. I worked in New York for twenty years before Rupert Murdoch hit town; during those years I interviewed dozens of renowned physicists, many of them Jewish. To be made the butt of an asinine joke was deeply hurtful.

OK, fine. He didn't say it (I guess. Not sure what this "asinine joke" stuff refers to). Only problem is this: If indeed he didn't say it, that is one damn horrible mistake and it deserves a correction, not a letter to the editor from the victim of the inaccuracy.

But if Michelmore did make that dumb remark, if Mahler has proof of some kind, then the reader is entitled to know that. New York should run an editor's note or reply to the letter saying that it stands by the story, or that Mahler stands by the story, or something like that.

Only two possibilities: Michelmore is being treated unfairly or the magazine is discrediting Mahler unfairly. Either way, the reader comes out on the short end of the stick.
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