Guenter Lewy, an emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachetts, filed a defamation lawsuit in 2008 against the Southern Poverty Law Center, and
two one of its employees, (including Mark Potok) David Holthouse.
The lawsuit arose from Lewy’s historical research in which he determined that the evidence of a Turkish genocide against the Armenians was inconclusive. SPLC’s Intelligence Report labeled Lewy, who is a Holocaust survivor, the equivalent of a Holocaust denier and also asserted that Lewy was paid by Turkey. Among other things SPLC asserted:
“Lewy is one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide.”
I have learned that Lewy and SPLC recently settled the case, and as part of the settlement, SPLC and its employees will apologize to Lewy and publish the apology in numerous publications including the Chronicle of Higher Education. Here is the text of the apology [added: see updates below as to text of apology]:
TEXT REMOVED – See Update 2 below
I am still working to confirm any other details of the settlement and will update this post if new information becomes available.
As I have noted before, SPLC is very quick to label people with the worst epithets, and it is good to see that someone stood up to SPLC’s tactics.
Update: After this post, I was contacted by the attorney for Prof. Lewy, indicating that the text above is not accurate, and that what follows below is the only apology to be offered between the parties. The source of my original post above was very reliable, and there must have been changes just prior to signing.
Prof. Lewy’s attorney stated that there was a financial settlement, and that while he could not disclose the amount, Prof. Lewy was very happy. Additionally, SPLC will be printing the retraction on its website.
In light of the e-mail from Prof. Lewy’s attorney, I am printing the update, as follows:
Retraction and Apology
In the summer 2008 issue of its Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, was part of a network of persons, financed by the Government of Turkey, who dispute that the tragic events of World War I constituted an Armenian genocide. We now realize that we misunderstood Professor Lewy’s scholarship, were wrong to assert that he was part of a network financed by the Turkish Government, and were wrong to assume that any scholar who challenges the Armenian genocide narrative necessarily has been financially compromised by the Government of Turkey. We hereby retract the assertion that Professor Lewy was or is on the Government of Turkey’s payroll.
To our knowledge, Professor Lewy has never sought to deny or minimize the deaths of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey; nor has he sought to minimize the Ottoman regime’s grievous wartime miscalculations or indifference to human misery in a conflict earmarked by widespread civilian suffering on all sides. What he has argued in his book, The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide, and elsewhere is that the present historical record does not substantiate a premeditated plan by the Ottoman regime to destroy because of ethnicity, religion ,or nationality, as opposed to deport for political-military reasons, the Armenian population. In this view, he is joined by such distinguished scholars as Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton University. As additional troves of archival information come to light, Professor Lewy advocates greater study of this contentious subject.
We deeply regret our errors and offer our sincerest apologies to Professor Lewy.
Professor Lewy adds the following comment:
The SPLC has made important contributions to the rule of law and the struggle against bigotry. Thus I took no pleasure in commencing legal action against it. But the stakes, both for my reputation as a scholar and for the free and unhindered discussion of controversial topics, were compelling. It must be possible to defend views that contradict conventional wisdom without being called the agent of a foreign government..
Lewy v SPLC – Retraction and Apology http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf
Update 2 – 9-30-2010: At the request of Prof. Lewy’s attorney, I have removed the original text of the Retraction (although I don’t think I was required to do so). Prof. Lewy’s attorney states that the version originally posted never was agreed-upon text, and that the only agreed-upon text of a retraction is what now appears in the first update.