Aug
02
2012

Smearing Gore Vidal, Then and Now

–A 1977 New York Times review (4/20/77) by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of a collection of Vidal's essays:

Gore Vidal for Congress

Button from Vidal's unsuccessful 1960 run for Congress.

So we are left to speculate over the psychological implications here, and to conclude that Mr. Vidal's animus toward everything from West Point to the American Establishment–not to speak of academicians, who are, after all, instructors–boils down to an unresolved hostility toward his father, further evidence of which, some would argue, is Mr. Vidal's cheerfully admitted homosexuality.

–A New York Times piece by Sam Tanenhaus (8/2/12):

Mr. Vidal, whose disdain for American vulgarity was tinged, some said, with antisemitism and dislike of the "lower orders."

Gore Vidal isn't here to respond to Tanenhaus's attack. But he did write a letter to the Times responding to the 1977 review. It did not appear in the Newspaper of Record, but was published in the New York Review of Books (7/14/77).

That letter, in part:

This is quintessential New York Times reporting. First, it is ill-written, hence ill-edited. Second, it is inaccurate. Third, it is unintelligent in the vulgar Freudian way. There is no evidence of an “unresolved hostility” toward my father in the pages under review or elsewhere in my work. Quite the contrary. I quote from Two Sisters, a Novel in the Form of a Memoir: "My father was the only man I ever entirely liked…." Nowhere in my writing have I "admitted" ("cheerfully" or dolefully) to homosexuality, or to heterosexuality. Even the dullest of mental therapists no longer accepts the proposition that cold-father-plus-clinging-mother-equals-fag-offspring.

These demurs to one side, I am grateful to your employee for so beautifully demonstrating in a single sentence so many of the reasons why The New York Times is a perennially bad newspaper.

Some things don't change.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.