The New York Times Magazine has issued a "correction" concerning its misrepresentation and defamation of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ( SLDN ) in the article "An Inconvenient Woman," by David France. SLDN is less than pleased with the limited extent of that action.
The initial article appeared in the May 28 edition of the Sunday Magazine. It carried the subheading and major theme, "In order to turn the murdered soldier Barry Winchell into a martyr for gay rights, activists first had to turn his girlfriend, Calpernia Addams, back into a man."
It used a series of direct quotes in claiming that SLDN attorney Kathi Westcott and Nashville activist Rhonda White urged Addams, a pre-operative transsexual who lives as a woman, to present herself as male to the media to play up the gay-bashing angle of the murder.
The only problem was, the people supposedly involved in that conversation—Westcott, White, and Addams—all deny that it ever took place. They told the Times fact-checker that when calls were made to verify the quotes, and SLDN tried several times to correct the facts prior to publication. And still the Times printed it.
On July 2 the Magazine printed a correction, attributing to "an editing error … an erroneous statement about a meeting. … Westcott did not say that Addams, 'for the sake of clarity,' should tell reporters to refer to her as a male."
Michelle Benecke, co-director of SLDN, said they were given the correction language on June 19. She responded that evening with a faxed letter requesting a change to identify Westcott as an attorney with SLDN, "because I had felt that the story had harmed us in addition to her." That did not happen.
Benecke also took advantage of a June 19 offer by Magazine editor Adam Moss to run a letter to the editor from SLDN. However, because the publication "would have corrected" the factual inaccuracy at that point, Moss said they could not write about that, only a general letter about SLDN. Which she did on June 22.
"I was quite surprised to get a letter, on June 28," from editorial director Jerry Mazorati confirming that the correction would appear, but that the magazine would not run the letter, said Benecke. "So I would like to get some clarification from them. They have caused our organization harm and this part of the issue remains unresolved."
Benecke said that she will be consulting with her colleagues and counsel to see if the Magazine correction "meets all of our concerns." She did not rule out the possibility of legal action.
Meanwhile, July 6 marks the one-year anniversary of the bashing death of PFC Barry Winchell.