Letters

From Ackerman's title to the first sentence regarding my job description (every month Vanity Fair publishes my name on its masthead as a contributing editor) through virtually every other paragraph of the story, there are numerous and inexcusable mistakes. Clearly, when a reporter of such consuming ambition is so busy lying and deceiving and is too lazy to make even obligatory phone calls, it is not surprising that the results are unnecessary and egregious errors.

It is nothing less than extraordinary that a newspaper that encourages deceit, sloppiness, and a willful disregard for the facts would take it upon itself to critique a libel lawsuit. Please be apprised that I will pursue any and all legal remedies.

Ann Louise Bardach
Los Angeles, California

Elise Ackerman replies: Ann Louise Bardach's letter suffers from the same type of distortion and lack of precision as does her New Republic article about Jorge Mas Canosa, which prompted him to sue her and the magazine for libel. Among other distortions, she deliberately mischaracterizes and misrepresents the nature of our relationship. What is most disturbing, however, is her willingness to denounce a critical examination of her work as the byproduct of bias and ambition.

I met Bardach three times during the past three months, the first in mid-April after I contacted her regarding a story I was writing about a paternity lawsuit filed against Mas Canosa. Bardach never lost an opportunity to pitch her own lawsuit as a separate story, repeatedly emphasizing the alleged explosiveness of the material she claimed she was gathering during the discovery phase. She informed me that she was eager to make all of the material available as a "public service" to other journalists and that already she had been in touch with reporters at the Miami Herald and several nationally prominent newspapers.

I initially told Bardach I did not think New Times would publish an article. If the documents being produced were as incriminating as she described, the story would be picked up by daily newspapers. A weekly like New Times would be unable to compete.

Bardach's remarks provoked my curiosity, however, and following publication of my paternity story on May 23 I examined the extensive court files pertaining to her case. The documents revealed a conflict of unusual contentiousness, fraught with hyperbolic rhetoric and paranoia. I related these impressions to my editor, who suggested that we pursue a story about the lawsuit itself. The story is not, and was never meant to be, a personal attack on either Jorge Mas or Bardach.

Bardach subsequently visited Miami, prior to my starting work on the story. She invited me to join her, Ricardo Mas (Jorge Mas's estranged brother), and a team from 60 Minutes at the Grand Bay Hotel. She told me she had contacted other television journalists as well because she believed that the revelations arising from her case merited national news coverage. In addition, she informed me that the Miami Herald was planning to publish its own story within weeks.

Earlier Bardach had asked me for the telephone numbers of some sources, which I had given her. Later, at the Grand Bay, she invited me to her room and offered me a copy of her own phone list. At no time did I rifle through her papers or try to obtain information from her in a surreptitious manner. And I never misled her about my interest in the Mas lawsuit, despite her claims to the contrary.

I based my story on exhaustive research of court documents and did not use any information Bardach imparted to me during our personal conversations. My dealings with her were friendly and professional, but because of her readiness to openly discuss what other journalists were working on, I did not confide my editor's decision to report on the lawsuit.

As a courtesy I called Bardach the day before the story was due to be published. She became extremely upset and criticized me for not seeking her side of the story, despite the fact that I told her the article derived from documents and sworn testimony, not from personal interviews.

Although Bardach claims the story contained "numerous and inexcusable mistakes," neither she nor her attorneys have been able to identify a single verifiable error. Regarding her job title, Bardach is in fact a free-lance writer, as she testified at her deposition. She also happens to be a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, though that is irrelevant to her lawsuit, which concerns an article she published in The New Republic. The more recent depositions in her case were not germane to my story, which addressed the ironies of the lawsuit: her arrogance and Mas's hubris. And contrary to Bardach's assertion, my article underwent rigorous editing and fact-checking, which is standard practice at New Times.

Bardach regrettably misunderstood the professional basis of our relationship, otherwise she would not have expected me to place loyalty to her point of view above an objective journalistic account. I was obliged to point out the weaknesses in her reporting, just as I was compelled to include Mas's disingenuous denials and the apparent outrageous behavior of his attorney.

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