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In July 1996, the Weekly Standard published a searing profile of Deepak Chopra, who responded with a $35-million libel suit. When asked about the suit in March by Washington City Paper, Standard editor and publisher William Kristol said:
“We believe what we published was true. We took serious precautions to ensure that it was true. You can’t be deterred from publishing what you believe to be true by legal threats.”
He had a different message for his readers in this week’s Standard.
“While we operated in good faith in publishing the article, we are now convinced that certain allegations reported in that story were false….Based on evidence provided to us over the past year, we are now convinced that Dr. Chopra did not engage the services of a prostitute in 1991….Based on evidence that we recently received, we also retract the conclusion that Dr. Chopra plagiarized a chart from another published work….More broadly, upon further examination of Dr. Chopra’s career and writing, we now believe that the general tone of our article was unfair to Dr. Chopra….We believe that Dr. Chopra is sincere and forthright in his teachings, and regret our publication of allegations about Dr. Chopra that we now believe to be erroneous. Thus, we offer this apology to Dr. Chopra and to our readers.”
Sources close to the case said that the editors became convinced that Chopra was in India at the time of the alleged prostitution incidents and pointed out that the primary witness had recanted her story. The breathtaking retraction, plus payment of Chopra’s legal fees, settles the case. Kristol said the settlement’s confidentiality requirements precluded him from making any comment other than this carefully worded statement: “The dispute between Dr. Deepak Chopra and the Weekly Standard has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.”
The comprehensiveness of the retraction raises questions about the future of Standard reporter Matt Labash, who wrote the Chopra piece. The Standard attempted to answer them in the retraction, which specifically mentioned that “the Editors take full responsibility for these errors” (capital “e” theirs, emphasis mine). In a phone interview, Kristol said, “I have full confidence in Matt. He is a first-rate reporter. He will be appearing regularly in our pages, and we are proud to have him. The mistakes were made by the editors.”
Broadcast Education Those who thought they had seen the last of Karen Shook when she stepped down as chair of the school board better stay tuned. Shook is rumored to be starting a career as a TV news anchor on Aug. 4. Reached on the Eastern Shore, Shook declined to identify her new employer, saying, “You will be getting a press release next week.” However, a source reported that Shook will host a News Channel 8 retrospective series on the period spanning 1968 to 1998. Shook’s decision to pull a Molinari makes sense: She’s already had a ton of practice smiling while delivering really bad news, and that telegenic red dress she wore so much while at the school board will fit right in when she slips to the other side of the news equation. Shook’s TV experience includes a stint at a Baltimore station and a consumer-news assignment at Channel 7.
Missed Opportunity When Mayor Marion Barry announced in April that he would hold weekly press briefings, metro reporters thought they might get a chance to pin him down on the issues of the day. But the elusive mayor has found a way to hide in plain view. The press opportunities generally begin with nicely dolloped announcements about municipal do-goodism and then digress into give-and-take between the mayor and the press. But not for longcommunications director Linda Wharton Boyd limits reporters to a single question and a single follow-up. WAMU’s Mark Plotkin, rebuffed in his efforts to find out whom the mayor blamed for the District’s continued dissing on the Hill, went off about the restrictions, later comparing the efforts at message control to the Politburo.
Washington Times metro reporter Vincent Morris says the problem with the press conferences is time management: “Like everything else the mayor does, it starts late. By the time they make all these wonderful announcements, there are about 10 minutes left to ask questions.” Near the end of the conference last week, Bill Rice of the Northwest Current pressed the mayor on unfilled appointments in D.C. agencies, and Channel 4’s Tom Sherwood mentioned that there might be some political advantages to waiting to fill the jobs. Barry promptly said, “I’ll hire you.” Sherwood looked at City Administrator Michael Rogers and said, “I want to be city administrator.” Rogers smiled and said, “You can have it.”
Two-fer Two weeks ago, Washington Post reporter Vanessa Williams wrote a story about Barry’s sudden visibility in all parts of the city, a winking implication that he is running in ’98. But last Monday, she wrote that even though the mayoral race is going great guns in Phillyher last posting was at the InquirerBarry’s fence-sitting has stymied all the other candidates in D.C. The article went on to quote At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz as saying she is “probably going to run.” Ward 2’s Jack Evans told Williams, “I firmly believe that the city needs a new mayorand that it should be me.” Ward 7’s Kevin Chavous said Barry’s plans figure in his own “not at all.” And At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil said, “I’m trying to get ready to run.” So just who is stymied? All the drama surrounding Barry’s alleged fence-sitting exists exclusively in the Post’s newsroom. Barry will run because he always runs; fer crying out loud, he ran for an at-large seat after he was convicted, when he and the voters knew of his impending appointment with justice.
Competition Heats Up When New York Times execs last year announced plans for a local edition, they plugged their commitment to bringing fresher news to Washingtonians weaned on the Post. However, they failed to mention their secret weapon: weather forecasts. In the first 12 days of June, the Times’ projections on the day’s temperature were on the money three times as often as the Post’s, which consistently overestimated how hot it was going to get. Everybody talks about the weather, and now the Post is finally doing something about it. David Carr
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