CBR FORCES U.K. GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER TO PRINT RETRACTION

Note to reader:  Please read from bottom up to preserve proper chronological order (salient points in red):

Dear Mr. Cunningham Thank you for your emails. When the New York Times article states that petrol was splashed in the face of the lab technician temporarily blinding her before it was spread in the same room and set on fire it does not suggest that the attack on the lab technician was an accidental consequence of the fact that the perpetrator was spreading petrol about a room in which she was standing. It must have been a foreseeable consequence of setting fire to that room or indeed to a clinic which contained a number of people that someone could get hurt. As you will be aware our client previously amended the article to make it clear that it was the room that was set on fire and not specifically the lab technician who was in that room. In light of your further complaint that the correction still does not accurately reflect what happened it has been amended to state that the arsonist ’splashed petrol on a lab technician’ [emphasis added]. 

The Article does not allege that the organisations named in the Article instigated or knew of the violent attacks but that ‘followers of these and other groups’ (ie people interested in the same cause who may not be associated with any of the named organisations) have performed such acts. These words were directed at a very broad and indeterminate group of people who are defined by the offences they have committed and does not refer to you or your organisation. Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Isobel Griffiths
In-house Lawyer
tel: 0203 353 3878

Guardian News & Media Ltd.
Kings Place,
90 York Way,
London
N1 9GU

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

 

Dear Mr. Griffiths,

 

If your publication has not corrected Ms. Paretsky’s defamatory column on George Tiller’s killing by close of business on Friday, June 26, 2009, we shall instruct our attorneys to file suit in defamation against Ms. Paretsky and theGuardian [emphasis added].  The New York Times article which is the source on which you say Ms. Paretsky relied for her information doesn’t say the arsonist “poured” gasoline on a technician.  The New York Times actually says “The bag contained gasoline which he splashed in the face of the technician, temporarily blinding her.  He then spread it around the room, set it afire and fled.”  Even that quote appears to be exaggerated when compared with the National Abortion Federation summary of the incident, which makes no mention of any attempt to incinerate the technician.

The word “splash” as used by The New York Times creates ambiguity as to the intentions of the arsonist but the word “poured” as used by Ms. Paretsky suggests an intention to target a person instead of a room for an arson attack.  An arsonist would “splash” fuel around a room he intended to burn.  An arsonist would “pour” fuel on a person he intended to assault.  Either confine yourselves to the direct quote from The New York Times, or be prepared to offer independent facts in support of your claim that the arsonist was specifically attacking a person instead of specifically attacking a room occupied by a person who may have been incidentally “splashed” by the fuel he was spreading around the room.  It should also be borne in mind that the arsonist had to pass other clinic personnel in the reception area to reach the area in which abortions were being performed.  Had his target been people, he would have opportunities to achieve that purpose immediately upon entering the building.  There is no evidence that he did any harm to anyone but the person who was “splashed” in the room he intended to burn.  What this man did was hugely indefensible without distorting the facts.  We will not tolerate your use of innuendo to defame us nor do we believe will the courts.

Regards,

 

Gregg Cunningham

Executive Director

 

Dear Ms. Griffiths,

 

Thank you for agreeing to retract Mr. Paretsky’s outrageously inaccurate allegation concerning the burning of a nurse.  There remain, however, additional issues which need to be addressed by your U.K.Guardian newspaper [emphasis added] .

You say that Ms. Paretsky’s article “does not identify any individual or organization as responsible” for “violent attacks” at abortion clinics.  That is incorrect.  She names the “National Council of Catholic Bishops, the National Right to Life Committee, Operation Rescue and other groups opposed to women’s reproductive health and privacy” which she says “are almost all headed by men.”  She says that “In the 36 years since the supreme court [sic] decided Roe, followers of these and other groups have performed acts ranging from murder and attempted murder … [emphasis added]” etc.  I am a man.  I “head” a national pro-life “group.”  Ms. Paretsky’s article accuses an anti-abortion arsonist of attempted murder.  The law of defamation makes false and disparaging accusations actionable even when those defamed are identified only by implication or as part of an identifiable class.

 

I appreciate your willingness to correct Ms. Paretsky’s scurrilous and false allegation that someone “poured petrol on a nurse and set fire to her.”  But the “correction” you propose is inadequate [emphasis added].  Based on The New York Times article on which you say Ms. Paretsky relied in making this allegation, you suggest that the record can be set straight with a revision which will state “… when a protester at a Cleveland clinic poured petrol on a lab technician, spread the petrol around the room and set fire to it.”  But the New York Times article doesn’t say the arsonist “poured petrol on a lab technician.”  It says the gasoline was “splashed in the face of a technician” in the process by which the arsonist “spread it around the room” and “set it afire ….”  The New York Times story doesn’t say the arsonist “set the technician afire.”  It says he set the “room” afire.  There is nothing in the article which offers any evidence that he was targeting the technician for attack.  Falsely claiming that he “poured” it on her creates the misleading impression that he specifically intended to injure her, instead of merely damaging the building.  The section of The National Abortion Federation website on “Clinic Violence” which apparently describes this incident, makes no reference to the technician even being injured by the fire.   The New York Times article you cite says her eye injuries were only “temporary.”  That doesn’t sound, as Ms. Paretsky initially alleged, as though someone “poured petrol on a nurse and set fire to her.”

 

Even given the facts as they were actually reported by the New York Times, the conduct of the arsonist is indefensible.  He was either an imbecile or a lunatic.  But that doesn’t license Ms. Paretsky to exaggerate the circumstances of the attack for political purposes.   She is either a very careless or a very dishonest journalist.  Not only did she make an attack which occurred thirty-two-years ago sound as though it happened yesterday, she twisted the burning of a building into the immolation of a nurse.  I need not remind you that defamation is no less actionable because the denigration works though innuendo.  Her clear implication is that male-lead anti-abortion groups burn nurses at the stake (or at the clinic, as the case may be).

 

I insist that you confine yourselves to quoting the New York Times article verbatim if you wish to avoid judicial review of this matter.

 

Respectfully,

 

Gregg Cunningham

The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform

 

From: Isobel.Griffiths@guardian.co.uk [mailto:Isobel.Griffiths@guardian.co.uk]
Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 7:11 AM
To: Gregg Cunningham
Subject: Fw: Terror in the Name of Jesus

 

Dear Mr. Cunningham Thank you for your email. It is not clear from your email how you assert that you or the anti-abortion Center for Bio-Ethical Reform of which you are a director are identified in the Article which is the subject of your complaint. Nor is it clear what defamatory allegations you claim have been made against you in this Article. This was a comment piece referring to a number of violent attacks and does not identify any individual or organisation as responsible for them.

 

 

We note however your comments on the claim made that ‘protesters at a Cleveland clinic poured petrol on a nurse and set fire to her.’ We have checked this with the writer Sara Paretsky who has provided us with a copy of an article that was published in the New York Times about an incident which occurred in the Concerned Woman’s Clinic in Cleveland in February 1978 in which it states that someone threw gasoline at a technician and about the room in which she was in and set fire to it. We attach a copy of the article for your reference. In light of the description of the incident in the New York Times we will amend the article to state that ‘when a protester at a Cleveland clinic poured petrol on a lab technician, spread the petrol around the room and set fire to it’ [emphasis added]. Yours sincerely Isobel Griffiths
In-house Lawyer
tel: 0203 353 3878

 

 

Guardian News & Media Ltd.
Kings Place,
90 York Way,
London
N1 9GU

 

Dear Ms. Griffiths,

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  I believe the issue can be easily resolved by merely requiring Ms. Paretsky to substantiate her allegations or prepare for publication a retraction with apology [emphasis added].  If she can substantiate these claims, we will join her in condemning such heinous acts, but we will also urge her to cite sources for any similarly lurid accusations she might publish in the future.  If she can not substantiate these claims, there will arise a new set of issues regarding the willingness of the Guardian to continue to publish the work of someone who is either negligent or unethical in her misstatement of very damaging facts.

 

Respectfully,

 

Gregg Cunningham

The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform

 

From: Isobel.Griffiths@guardian.co.uk [mailto:Isobel.Griffiths@guardian.co.uk]
Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2009 10:16 AM
To: Gregg Cunningham
Subject: Terror in the Name of Jesus

Thank you for your email which has been forwarded to me in the Editorial Legal Department. I am currently looking into your complaint and will respond substantively as soon as I can. Yours sincerely Isobel Griffiths
In-house Lawyer
tel: 0203 353 3878

 

 

Guardian News & Media Ltd.
Kings Place,
90 York Way,
London
N1 9GU

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

 

To Whom It May Concern:

 

My name is Gregg Cunningham.  I direct the anti-abortion Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.  We have a presence in the U.K.  I am writing to inform you that I am considering legal action for defamation on behalf of my organization and other similarly situated groups in response to a column in your publication which was authored by Sara Paretsky.  Titled “Terror in the name of Jesus,” (June 1, 2009), Ms. Paretsky asserts, without citing any source, that “… protesters at a Cleveland clinic poured petrol on a nurse and set fire to her.”  I have thoroughly searched the internet, including the National Abortion Federation website which provides detailed tracking of alleged violence against abortion providers, and I can find no evidence of any incident which is even vaguely similar to the horrifying allegations asserted by Ms. Paretsky[emphasis added].

 

I realize that Ms. Paretsky is a virulently pro-abortion feminist.  I realize that she made her reputation writing fiction.  I realize that that fiction consists principally of crime novels.  But how does that justify smearing the pro-life movement by making up crime fiction fantasies with which to vilify opponents of abortion?  I insist that Ms. Paretsky immediately substantiate her allegation or submit for publication a retraction accompanied by an apology.  She is fully entitled to express her anti-life views and the Guardian is fully entitled to publish them.  But she is not entitled to manufacture facts.  This is an issue of journalistic integrity; yours and hers.

 

I await your reply.

 

Respectfully,

 

Gregg Cunningham

The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform

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