Unfortunately, the New York Times is not addressing the problems that the Judith Miller scandal has exposed, and publisher Arthur Sulzberger is chiefly responsible, according to a report in Friday's Guardian (UK). -- A former Times employee says: "In the end it comes down to Arthur but no one can say that because he owns the paper." -- Sulzberger is a friend of Miller, who has many other friends in high places as well. -- A report in the New York Observer, which tells advertisers that its readers constitute Manhattan's wealthiest, best educated, and most influential consumers, with an average net worth of more than $1.7 million, is unusual in that it describes with some frankness the importance of Judith Miller's support among the power elite. -- "On Oct. 29, as Ms. Miller and her husband, book editor Jason Epstein, dined at the Southampton estate of Felix Rohatyn, just a few gilded doors down Gin Lane from the manse of retired Times publisher Arthur (Punch) Sulzberger," wrote Anna Schneider-Mayerson and Gabriel Sherman. -- What emerges from their gossipy piece is a sense of Judith Miller as someone deeply self-deluded, and whose dissembling and self-deceptions promise to continue to affect the stature of the New York Times. -- That's too bad: as Seymour Hersh said in the course of an Oct. 19 conversation with Scott Ritter, at this time the nation sorely needs the New York Times to get its act together....
SUPPORT FOR MILLER EXPOSES RIFT AT NEW YORK TIMES
By Gary Younge
** Publisher backs journalist despite calls for her to go; Severance may include chance to reply to critics **
November 4, 2005
Delivering the keynote speech at the Online News Association last week, the publisher of the New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger, spoke about the need to "upgrade the ethical standards of journalism." The first clause of a journalist's contract with the reader, he insisted, is "my first responsibility is to the truth."
Half of the questions that followed concerned the future of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, whose reporting and alleged dissembling before the grand jury during the recent Valerie Plame case has attracted intense criticism.
"Do you believe the New York Times's failure to fire Judy Miller has affected your credibility as a journalistic organisation?" asked one journalist.
"No," answered Mr. Sulzberger before qualifying his response. "There is no question that there has been an effect on the way people are viewing the Times because of the Judy Miller situation . . . this story is not over. Events are changing rapidly."
Miller, whose reporting has been publicly slated by her paper's editor, reader's editor, and one of its senior columnists, is now embroiled in intense negotiations with the paper's management over the terms of her severance.
According to the New York Observer [see #2 below] and sources with knowledge of the negotiations, Miller is demanding the right to reply to her critics in an opinion piece and a non-disparagement agreement as condition of her departure. Otherwise she has threatened to return to work. She has been on leave since her release a month ago after spending 85 in jail days for refusing to reveal her source in the Valerie Plame case.
Given the very public criticism from her colleagues her return is regarded as more of a bargaining position than a tenable proposition. In the run up to the Iraq war Miller's reporting was widely slated for being insufficiently critical of the Bush administration's claims that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Last year the paper issued a public apology for its Iraq coverage in which three of the five articles it mentioned bore her name. Bill Keller said that when he became editor, following the Jayson Blair scandal in 2003, he told Miller to stay away from security-related stories but she continued to write them.
The paper stood by her when she went to jail but neither Keller nor Mr. Sulzberger asked her any substantive questions about the nature of her contact with her source. Accounts of both her interviews with Lewis "Scooter" Libby and her testimony have since undermined her veracity as both a witness and a journalist. At the grand jury she failed to remember who gave her the name "Valerie Flame" that was in her notebook and only "recalled" one meeting with Mr. Libby after she had been ordered to return to the stand.
Returning to work, say insiders, would exacerbate an already tense atmosphere at the newspaper about how it has handled her and undermine the editor. Columnists Maureen Dowd and Byron Calame have essentially called for her to be fired or removed from her reporting role. Keller told staff in a memo that she misled her editors and that he had "several regrets" about how he dealt with her. Miller has branded Keller's memo "ugly" and "seriously inaccurate."
The situation is further complicated by the fact that Miller is a good friend of Mr Sulzberger. "Arthur's social closeness to Judy is making it hard for him to see things clearly," says Doug McGill, editor of the online news website, The McGill report, who worked at the Times for 10 years as a reporter and subeditor.
Times staffers say they would not like to see her return but would not like the paper submit to further demands. "They could put her on a shelf somewhere and give her nothing to do," said one staffer who did not wish to be named. "But I don't think anyone wants to see the paper capitulate to her."
Others argue that Miller, while culpable, reflects a broader problem at the paper. "The Times is delusional about its role as a player and its access to exclusive information from high level sources," said one former staffer. "That is what they wanted and that is what Judy offered them. In the end it comes down to Arthur but no one can say that because he owns the paper."
"There is much greater gravity to this than the Jayson Blair scandal," says McGill. "This was the basis on which we went to war."
DOWD ON MILLER
She never knew when to quit. That was her talent and her flaw. Sorely in need of a tight editorial leash, she was kept on no leash at all, and that has hurt this paper and its trust with readers. She more than earned her sobriquet, Miss Run Amok.
Judy's stories about WMD fit too perfectly with the White House's case for war.
She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the conman who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the dangerous echo chamber that former Senator Bob Graham dubbed "incestuous amplification". Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous journalists.
Even last April, when I wrote a column critical of Chalabi, she fired off an email to me defending him.
When Bill Keller became executive editor in the summer of 2003 he barred Judy from covering Iraq and WMD issues. But he admitted in the Times's Sunday story about Judy's role in the Plame leak case that she had kept "drifting" back. Why did nobody stop this drift?
Off the Record
JUDY COME HOME!
By Anna Schneider-Mayerson & Gabriel Sherman
** Millers Return on Times Table" **
New York Observer
November 7, 2005
Reporter Judith Miller may be returning to the New York Times newsroom this month. According to sources familiar with Ms. Millers negotiations, she has signaled that her potential homecoming could happen as early as next week.
I am not commenting on my discussions with the paper, Ms. Miller said by phone on Nov. 1. No decisions have been made. I cant comment any further.
Ms. Miller is still involved in talks with the paper -- whose executive editor, Bill Keller, publicly lamented her entanglement with now-indicted Vice Presidential aide I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby in the Valerie Plame Wilson leak case.
But even as the Times has sought to isolate Ms. Miller, she has gathered powerful friends to her side. And those talks appear to be turning from severance toward reconciliation, according to Times sources.
With her long-term Times future unsettled, she would be returning under her current contract, reversing her earlier announced plans to stay away from the Times through the end of the year.
Her return would disappoint most of my colleagues at the Times, a staffer said. What I find remarkable is that this is a situation where our editors have described a reporter having openly misled them, and theres no disciplinary consequences to that.
Hints of a potential change of heart were on display on Oct. 29, as Ms. Miller and her husband, book editor Jason Epstein, dined at the Southampton estate of Felix Rohatyn, just a few gilded doors down Gin Lane from the manse of retired Times publisher Arthur (Punch) Sulzberger.
She seemed very upbeat and cheerful, said a fellow dinner guest. She certainly conveyed the impression that shes assuming that she was going to go back. I think it was something like When I go back or Assuming I go back -- that kind of a word. It certainly wasnt Im not going back.
For Mr. Sulzbergers son, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Ms. Miller is a relentless source of tsuris -- the most visible example of his inability as an executive to make a problem go away. On Friday, Mr. Keller is due to visit the papers Washington bureau, where hostility to Ms. Miller runs deepest, for a brown-bag lunch with the staff. Reporters plan to bring up the subject of Ms. Miller, according to one bureau source.
But while the younger Mr. Sulzberger and company suffer, on West 43rd Street and in Washington, Ms. Miller has found solace in the Hamptons, in the forgiving arms of a high-powered social set.
Mr. Rohatyn, the Austrian-born financier and former ambassador to France, is a close personal friend of Ms. Miller. In attendance at the dinner were Mr. Rohatyns wife, Elizabeth Rohatyn; Peter Peterson, founder of the Blackstone Group and current chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations; and Mr. Petersons wife, Joan Ganz Cooney, the Sesame Street creator.
The Times has tried to distance itself from Ms. Miller. But in the standoff with its reporter, the newspaper of the liberal establishment finds itself at odds with a considerable chunk of that same establishment -- specifically, the high-powered chunk that shuttles between Manhattan and posh enclaves in the East End.
It is at dinners with the Rohatyns in Southampton, or over coffee with her book editor, Alice Mayhew, at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, that Ms. Miller has regrouped and strategized.
Landing a seat in Ms. Millers war room has taken on a certain social cachet, akin to dropping a sly mention of an invitation to Davos at a cocktail party. At a recent high-octane Manhattan social event, Mr. Peterson -- whose Water Mill home isnt far from Ms. Millers retreat in Sag Harbor -- was overheard telling friends that he had become involved in negotiations between the embattled journalist and the Times. Mr. Peterson has somewhat famously bargained for media types before, negotiating contracts for Diane Sawyer and Roone Arledge, and handling the personal finances of Liz Smith.
Im a personal friend, not an advisor, Mr. Peterson clarified later by phone. She has her own advisors.
And plenty of them. Im very grateful for their support, Ms. Miller said by phone from Sag Harbor on the evening of Oct. 30. Its difficult for people, because the Times is a powerful institution, and a lot of people are frightened to go up against the Times. One thing is, you find out who your friends are. And Im gratified to see that I have a lot of them.
A key figure among Ms. Millers friends at the moment is Matthew Mallow, who has known her for 15 years. Mr. Mallow, 62, is the head of the corporate-finance department at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom. At Ms. Millers request, he joined the legal team handling her contempt case this past winter, along with his Washington, D.C., partner, Robert Bennett. When she was jailed, Mr. Mallow visited her every Thursday.
Now Mr. Mallow and his partner, Skadden labor lawyer John Furfaro, are representing her in her negotiations with the Times over possible severance.
Mr. Mallow declined to comment, other than to say: Im a friend, and I believe friendship counts.
Both Mr. Mallow and his wife, reproductive-rights activist and writer Ellen Chesler, are prominent Democratic donors and fund-raisers. During the Clinton administration, they were among some of the First Couples overnight guests. Their Bridgehampton and Dakota homes have been the sites of fund-raisers for Senator Hillary Clinton, Mayoral hopeful Mark Green, and Presidential candidate Howard Dean.
But at the moment, across the Manhhamptons, the political affiliation that matters is friendship with Judy.
Ms. Millers social network includes the novelist E.L. Doctorow and the real-estate baron turned media mogul Mort Zuckerman, who several years ago hosted Ms. Miller and Mr. Epstein on his yacht. In July, on Ms. Millers last night in New York before reporting to the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia, she dined at an Italian restaurant on East 85th Street, hosted by a group of women that included novelist Shirley Lord, Vanity Fair scribe Marie Brenner, Ms. Rohatyn, Peggy Noonan, Ms. Chesler, and New York magazine writer Meryl Gordon.
I dont believe I have to agree with my friends on all issues, said Ms. Chesler, who first became friends with Ms. Miller while working at the Century Foundation in the early 1990s. I dont agree with Judy on some issues. The whole point of a liberal temperament is to accept differences of opinion. . . . I dont always agree with her, but she knows things I dont know. And its wise of me to listen to her. I learn a lot from people I disagree with.
All of our friends have different complicated times in their lives. And you stay their friend -- you dont just turn away, Ms. Rohatyn said.
Their support has been offered in a lot of ways, Ms. Miller said. Its been everything from an e-mail to a phone call saying, What the hell is going on at your company? A lot times people are saying, Just hang in there.
The place where Ms. Miller has been doing her hanging-in is the bayside hamlet of Sag Harbor, where she and Mr. Epstein live in a modest 19th-century house on Union Street with an herb garden and a lap pool. Though the couple has an apartment at One Police Plaza on Center Street, Sag Harbor is the place to which Ms. Miller retreated after her 85 days in jail, for a walk on the Bridgehampton beach with Ms. Chesler and dinner at the American Hotel -- which, on a busy day, could pass for the front room at Michaels.
During Ms. Millers confinement, American Hotel owner Ted Conklin and writer Harry Hurt III posted an open letter in support of her in the lobby. Each week, a new copy went up, to be mailed to Ms. Miller in jail after it had collected signatures.
We want you to know that we here in Sag Harbor, along with your many admirers and kindred spirits around the globe, love you and miss you. Together, we are working and praying for the day when you will once again come home to us, free, free, at last, the letter read, anticipating the tone of Mr. Libbys now-famous letter urging Ms. Miller to testify.
Now that Ms. Miller is free, she can be spotted around 8 a.m. on her regular morning exercise walks, accompanied by the new black cockapoo -- named Hamlet -- that she got for Mr. Epstein before she went to jail.
Mr. Hurt recalled seeing her at the Sag Harbor pharmacy two weekends ago, the day Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd published her famously scathing column suggesting that Ms. Miller shouldnt return to the Times. She just said, Maureen wrote this piece, and its titled Woman of Mass Destruction, and its an attack, Mr. Hurt said. She almost giggled about it. Obviously, she knew some of the import of it. She didnt seem angry; she didnt seem depressed by it. It seemed to me she took it with the appropriate amount of chagrin.
Between Ms. Dowd, Mr. Keller, and public editor Byron Calame, the Times seemed to be sending a clear message that it wanted Ms. Miller to stay away.
She cant seem to please anybody. Shes moved from being the darling of the newspaper to being so ostracized, said Ms. Chesler.
But according to sources familiar with Ms. Millers severance discussions, negotiations about her departure were at a standstill as of the end of October.
One of the main obstacles was Ms. Millers demand to write an opinion piece responding to her critics. Neither side seems willing to compromise on this point. From the Times perspective the notion of giving her a last shot is offensive, said one source familiar with the discussions. From her point of view the idea of letting it stand with so many denunciations of her in the paper is unacceptable.
Ms. Millers lawyer has also floated the idea of a non-disparagement agreement -- a concept that seems hard to enforce, given the quasi-independent status of Ms. Dowd and Mr. Calame. And according to one source, Ms. Miller herself has indicated that she would never agree to a gag order.
After all, the people she talks to are the people who are on her side.
My friends really understand why I did what I did, both in going to jail, and in the decision to leave, Ms. Miller said. The decision to leave, while the decision to go to jail has been well covered, and very well articulated, the decision by which I left jail has been blurred and hasnt been well articulated. Whats surprised me is that my friends have got it.