October 4, 2010, History of Truth - In the summer 2008 issue of its Intelligence Report magazine and companion website, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), one of America’s most venerable civil rights organizations, accused Professor Guenter Lewy of being part of a network of academicians financed by the Turkish government to dispute the Armenian allegation of genocide.
The magazine even attempted to draw a crude parallel between Professor Lewy and Neo-Nazis, even though Professor Lewy had been roughed up by Nazi thugs on Kristallnacht in 1938 and later fought against the Nazis in the British Army’s Jewish Brigade in World War II. Lewy, emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, was taken to task by SPLC also for concluding in his 2005 book, The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey, A Disputed Genocide, that the historic record as presently known does not substantiate the charge of genocide against the Ottoman government of 1915.
Represented by the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund (TALDF), Professor Lewy sued to restore his good name and freedom of inquiry. Yesterday SPLC published a retraction and apology admitting that they, "misunderstood Professor Lewy's scholarship, were wrong to assert that he was part of a network financed by the Turkish Government, and were wrong to assume that any scholar who challenges the Armenian genocide narrative necessarily has been financially compromised by the Government of Turkey.”
Professor Lewy commented, "The SPLC has made important contributions to the rule of law and the struggle against bigotry. Thus I took no pleasure in commencing legal action against it. But the stakes, both for my reputation as a scholar and for the free and unhindered discussion of controversial topics, were compelling. It must be possible to defend views that contradict conventional wisdom without being called the agent of a foreign government.” David Saltzman, one of Lewy’s co-counsel from the TALDF added, "Academic freedom requires that scholars not work under a cloud of suspicion of their motives. Professor Lewy has been transparent and objective in his work.” "SPLC did the right thing,” said Bruce Fein, Lewy’s other co-counsel, "By admitting and correcting their errors they not only rescued Professor Lewy’s reputation, but advanced a common goal of free inquiry as the best method of discovering truths.”
The TALDF is generously supported by the Turkish Coalition of America. Lincoln McCurdy, the organization’s President, observed, "Reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples will require a full accounting of history. TCA supports an open dialogue and unfettered academic inquiry into this controversial period of Ottoman-Armenian history and tragedy. We are proud of TALDF’s hard work which hopefully will contribute to this open debate and offer our congratulations to Professor Lewy."
SPLC will also provide Professor Lewy, whose lawsuit had sought damages of $8 million, a monetary settlement.