Skip to comments.New Push Afoot To Revoke a Tainted Times Pulitzer
Posted on 06/10/2003 11:08:24 PM PDT by LdSentinal
Bowing to a letter writing campaign from Ukrainian- American groups, the Pulitzer Prize board has quietly convened a subcommittee to investigate revoking the award it gave to New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty in 1932.
"Were just going to look into a variety of complaints, just look into everything," said the administrator for the board, Sigvard Gissler.
Inspired by the 70 th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine the winter of 193233, when Stalins FiveYear Plan deliberately starved Ukrainian peasants into submission, killing millions the Ukrainian groups have mobilized 45,000 letter writers to call the boards attention to the way Duranty deliberately ignored the mass deaths in his reports.
"We want them to revoke the Pulitzer,and also acknowledge that Duranty was a propagandist for Stalin," said a spokesman for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
Durantys Pulitzer was given for reporting done in 1931, and did not include his coverage of the famine.
"The prize is not meant to say anything about a winners body of work over time," Mr. Gissler said."Its about a specific set of stories."
The inaccuracy of Durantys reporting is beyond question his cover-ups of Stalinist atrocities while covering Russia for the New York Times from 1922-1941 are legendary.
"Its clear that he knew about it," said the chairman of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, John Gregorovich. "He favored the Soviet regime, so he lied to protect it."
Mr. Gregorovich is borne out by Sally Taylors biography of Duranty, "Stalins Apologist," and by Leonard Leshuks justpublished "U.S. Intelligence Perceptions of Soviet power 19211946." Both books cite incidents of Duranty telling American and British Embassy officials of the "millions dying out there."
The New York Times has acknowledged that Durantys journalism has been discredited by later reporting in the Times and elsewhere.
The Pulitzer subcommittee charged with reviewing Durantys prize anew was named in April.
This is not the first time the board has reviewed Durantys case. In 1990, the publication of Ms. Taylors biography inspired a full board review that resulted in a unanimous decision not to revoke the prize.
According to Mr. Gissler, the board at the time felt Durantys writing occurred "in a different era and in different circumstances."
That era coincided with the rise of Soviet Communism and Joseph Stalin.
The peg-legged Duranty was in Russia for the end of the Russian Civil War and had a prime seat for the erection of the new workers paradise. His Communist sympathies were no secret, and at the time the consequences of supporting the Bolsheviks were beneficial, as opposed to his other ruling passion: women.
"There are some who say that the N.K.V.D. [the secret police] blackmailed him for his sexual tastes he liked women in chains," said historian Robert Conquest."Or that they provided him with agreeable women."
Others suspect Duranty won his way into Russian favor with his constant papering over of Soviet crimes. His fawning finally won him an interview with Stalin in 1929, a major journalistic coup.
As Stalin consolidated his power in the early 1930s, Duranty filed reports that ignored crimes against humanity that included not only the famine, but also the Collectivization Terror of 1931, in which millions of Soviet peasants were forcibly relocated to collective farms and factories, and Stalins government and military purges.
Through it all, Duranty used his towering reputation (though his own stature was short) among foreign correspondents to denounce reporters trying to report Stalins crimes accurately.
Encouraged by Durantys erroneous reports, some Westerners touted Soviet Communism as the "New Civilization." They elevated Duranty to new heights of influence, and he, in turn, encouraged their enthusiasm with more false reporting.
Malcolm Muggeridge, a Russian correspondent during the same period as Duranty, attended the banquet announcing American recognition of the Soviet regime in 1933 an event sometimes credited to Durantys whitewashed coverage.
While everyone honored received polite applause, "the one really prolonged applause was evoked by" Duranty.
Muggeridge, who went on to his own impressive career, called Duranty "the greatest liar I have ever met in 50 years of journalism."
Despite all of the evidence against him, the chances of the board revoking Durantys 70-year-old prize are slim. In 1981, a Washington Post reporter, Janet Cooke, voluntarily returned her prize after it was learned that her prize-winning stories were largely fiction, but no Pulitzer has ever been revoked.