Scholars Petition C-Span Not to Show Lecture by Holocaust Denier
By Michelle Diament
More than 200 historians and social scientists have signed a petition asking C-Span’s Book TV program not to show a lecture by David Irving, a Holocaust denier, that the cable station says it scheduled to balance a planned broadcast of a lecture by Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University.
Ms. Lipstadt spoke to the Hillel organization at Harvard University on Wednesday, and the C-Span program had planned to tape the lecture for broadcast in conjunction with the release of her new book, History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving (Ecco).
The book chronicles a libel lawsuit that was brought by Mr. Irving against Ms. Lipstadt in Britain after the publication there of an earlier book of hers, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (Free Press, 1993). A judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2000, exonerating Ms. Lipstadt of having damaged Mr. Irving’s reputation and criticizing him as a deliberate falsifier of historical evidence (The Chronicle, April 12, 2000).
C-Span decided to broadcast a lecture by Mr. Irving as well, to give “balance” to the programming, a Book TV official told a columnist for The Washington Post. Ms. Lipstadt subsequently rescinded permission for C-Span to broadcast her lecture.
In the petition, which takes the form of a letter to Connie Doebele, executive producer of Book TV, the scholars express strong opposition to the broadcast of Mr. Irving’s lecture. They also respond to Ms. Doebele’s assertion that balance is at issue.
In the letter, the group equates the need to balance Ms. Lipstadt’s lecture with one by Mr. Irving to countering a black-history program with the views of someone who denies that African-American people were subjected to slavery in the United States.
The letter was sent to Ms. Doebele on Thursday morning, according to Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which is organizing the petition. But, he said, more signatures have been received since then, and he expects another version of the letter will follow.
Ms. Doebele did not return telephone calls on Thursday.
It was not clear whether C-Span would proceed with broadcasting Mr. Irving’s lecture in the wake of Ms. Lipstadt’s withdrawal.
The Wyman Institute has posted the text of the letter on its Web site.
Mr. Irving has posted his correspondence with C-Span about the matter on his Web site. In a note dated March 15, after his lecture was taped, he wrote, “I tried hard to be balanced in my talk, and refrained of course from ad hominem attacks on Prof. Lipstadt.”