Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

Walter Dellinger’s Retraction


Walter Dellinger has kindly written me to retract the one sentence of his Slate post last week that seemed to bear on my back-and-forth (see here, here and here and links therein) with Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick on Linda Greenhouse’s conflict of interest.  With Walter’s permission, I publish his e-mail to me (emphasis added):


Dear Ed –  In a posting last week on Slate, I included a sentence that could easily be read to call in question your “honesty.”  I had no such intention and I write to you now to recall that defective passage.  The issue involves criticism of Linda Greenhouse for “bias” and the New York Times’ (in my view) tepid defense of her work. I concluded that the Times was “wrong to dignify these attacks as if they were honest complaints that deserved an answer.”  I regret that last hastily written sentence.   Since you have been a central figure in this debate, readers would naturally assume I was referring to you.  In fact, I had not even read what you had written on this subject.  What motivated me to write was the fact that I have been following criticism of Greenhouse for at least 20 years and never expressed how off-base I find it to be and this seemed to be an opportunity to express that thought.  The point I wanted to make was not that Greenhouse didn’t have strong views, but that every reporter does because “indifference” is a much a view as any other position.  Moreover, over the years I had never seen a demonstration that her views had caused her to make any mistakes in her stories, and that if her stories were infected with bias such mistakes would show up.  That same principle — professionals should be able to overcome their views and get their work right — applies as well when a spouse’s involvement is said to be the source of the views.  While I disagree with your position on the relevance of a spouse’s role, your position, I believe, has far more adherents than mine.   


The question of Greenhouse’s broader bias is beyond the scope of this post, though I will note that I quote in point 1 here vigorous criticism, shared by many, of her coverage of the Hamdan ruling (a case in which her husband submitted this amicus brief as counsel of record for two amici), that I list here several other instances that I have run across (without any searching inquiry) of Greenhouse’s biased reporting, and that plenty of other observers, on The Corner and elsewhere, have called attention to other matters of bias.


I thank Walter for his retraction, and I trust that Dahlia Lithwick, who posted Walter’s original observations, will call his retraction to the attention of Slate’s readers.  In the meantime, I’m still waiting for Bazelon’s and Lithwick’s retractions of their many errors in our exchange.

Tags: Whelan


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review