Fired New York Times reporter Jayson Blair may have found inspiration for his outrageous lies and make-believe stories from another Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter, Walter Duranty.
And despite the fact that Duranty has been found to be one of the greatest and most dangerous liars in the history of journalism, the Times still proudly displays him as a Pulitzer winner.
Assigned to the Soviet Union in the 1930s, Duranty became a willing accomplice to mass murderer Joseph Stalin and deliberately covered up the starvation of millions of Ukrainian peasants by Stalin’s government.
Duranty claimed that reports of the holocaust were false.
British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who also served in Moscow with Duranty, called him "the greatest liar of any journalist I have ever met."
In March 1933, while admitting that there might have been "serious food shortages" in the Ukraine, Duranty insisted that "there [was] no actual starvation." Actually, he wrote, nobody died from starvation, just "widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition."
Duranty knew this was a lie.
Duranty, a British citizen, reported to his nation’s Moscow Embassy that he was fully aware of the extent of the horror that took place in the Ukraine, which he had visited under Soviet auspices.
"The Ukraine has been bled white," he told the embassy. He said he thought it "quite possible that as many as 10 million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year."
In one conversation, he told British diplomat William Strang why he didn't think starving peasants were all that important.
"There are millions of people in Russia," he said, "whom it is fairly safe to leave in want. But the industrial proletariat, about 10 percent of the population, must be at all costs fed if the revolution is to be safeguarded."
Eugene Lyons wrote that the Soviets had let Duranty into the famine area ahead of other correspondents because they considered him one of the "technically 'friendly' reporters, whose dispatches might be counted upon to take the sting out of anything subsequent travelers might report."
Duranty dined with Lyons on returning. "He gave us his fresh impressions in brutally frank terms and they added up to a picture of ghastly horror," Lyons wrote in his USSR memoir, "Assignment in Utopia." "His estimate of the dead from famine was the most startling I had as yet heard from anyone."
Such was the reality Duranty kept from readers of the New York Times. Why did he not correct false reporting of the previous year?
He had just won a Pulitzer Prize for writing that collectivization had succeeded. To report otherwise would mean admitting error. So Duranty lied.
Other reporters were more honest. Malcolm Muggeridge did a series of articles in The Guardian describing "starving in its absolute sense. ..."
No one paid attention, and Muggeridge found himself unemployable when he returned to Britain.
Later, a young reporter named Gareth Jones took a three-week walking trip through the famine area and confirmed Muggeridge's findings, describing starvation on a mass scale in Guardian articles.
Yet Duranty wrote that during his visit to the Ukraine in 1933, "the people looked healthier and more cheerful than [he] had expected, although they told grim tales of their sufferings in the past two years."
Writing about his trip to the Ukraine in April that year, he "had no doubt that the solution to the agrarian problem had been found."
It had. Planned mass starvation took care of the problem.
Did the Times know that Duranty was playing Stalin’s tunes? They deny it, but according to Accuracy in Media, there is evidence they were partly in on the con that significantly affected American and Western views about Soviet Russia.
According to Accuracy in Media chairman Reed Irvine, "Duranty was to claim that the Times went along with his decision to ignore negative news."
Irvine added that at a conference on the Ukraine starvation at the City University of New York, Dr. James E. Mace revealed a cabled report of an interview Duranty had in June 1931 with A.W. Kliefoth of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.
The cable read: "Duranty pointed out that an agreement with the New York Times and the Soviet authorities, his official dispatches always reflect the official opinion of the Soviet regime and not his own."
Dr. Mace, staff director of the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine, found the document in the National Archives and offered it to the New York Times, which did not publish the information.
When Irvine and late AIM president Murray Baron raised the subject with Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger in 1988, Sulzberger said that he had reviewed Times archives and "there is nothing in our files to indicate anything like that. ..."
Duranty, a one-legged, alcohol-swilling, opium-smoking sexual deviant despised by the majority of his colleagues, was partly responsible for one of the most harmful actions ever taken by the United States in connection with the murderous Stalin regime – the U.S. recognition of the Soviet government by Franklin Roosevelt.
Roosevelt’s action kept Stalin’s government afloat and helped lead to decades of Stalin’s brutality and the slaughter of untold millions and, later, the Cold War.
As AIM reported: "In November 1933 he [Duranty] stood in the Oval Office of the White House as President Roosevelt announced the diplomatic recognition of the USSR – an initiative he would not have dared had the public known of the horrendous death toll of Stalin's policies. Duranty called the diplomatic recognition 'ten days that steadied the world.' Duranty was granted a rare personal interview with Stalin, whom he liked to call the "greatest living statesman ... a quiet, unobtrusive man."
In her book "Stalin's Apologist," British historian S.J. (Sally) Taylor wrote:
"As a main source of information for the leftists of the 1930s, Duranty told them what they wanted to hear, fanning the flames of Western Communism. Everybody quoted Duranty – Edmund Wilson, Beatrice Webb, the entire group of intellectuals who admired the Soviet experiment. ... His stubborn chronicle of Soviet achievements made him the doyen of left-leaning Westerners who believed that what happened inside Soviet Russia held the key to the future for the rest of the world."
Booklist said of him in 1935, "Almost everyone in the English-speaking world who endeavors to keep up with what goes on in Soviet Russia knows the name Walter Duranty."
Such was Duranty's reputation, and that of the Times, that correspondents in Moscow followed his lead in writing fairy tales about the Soviet Union.
Whenever confronted with the truth about Soviet brutality, Duranty would say, "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs," a phrase often picked up by those seeking to excuse excesses by tyrannical regimes.
According to Reed Irvine, the man’s portrait still hangs in the gallery of Pulitzer winners alongside such faces as Abe Rosenthal, William L. Laurence and Hanson Baldwin.
In recent years the Times has added a caveat beside Duranty’s name on the list of Pulitzer Prizes that reads: "Walter Duranty, for reporting of the news from Russia. (Other writers in The Times and elsewhere have discredited this coverage.)"
Irvine told NewsMax a similar note is now displayed on Duranty’s portrait, which publisher Sulzberger says he won’t take down until the prize is taken back, not something that appears to be about to happen, although there is a rising chorus of demand that it should be.
It seems that neither the Times nor the Pulitzer board has any sense of shame. No wonder Jayson Blair lasted as long as he did at the Times. It’s a wonder the paper didn’t nominate him for a Pulitzer.
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