Eric Alterman: In a spat with a name-calling Joe Klein

Historians in the News

A few final (I hope) notes about Mr. Klein:

Some points for the record:

1) Just this week, alone, Klein has referred to me as: "obsessed," "still-obsessed," "futile and pathetic," and "still pathetic," "still after [him]," "a suck-up" and "intellectually dishonest," "not reliable," and full of "non-stop crap." I have not called Klein a single name this week, or to my knowledge, ever. I have simply discussed his work as an influential and respected pundit, which after all, is my job, and provided my sources and evidence. I'm still waiting for Klein to back up a single one of his epithets with a (sourced) example from my work.

2) Klein says, "Several readers have wondered why I'm wasting my time with Eric Alterman." Read the comments on his blog, here. That's not what I'm seeing.

3) Klein speaks repeatedly of my "obsession," with him, etc. Well, he's written about me three times (so far) this week, always in a personally vituperative fashion (see above). The first two were inspired merely by a) listing of the various members of Time columnists last week, and b) a single quote of Klein's I posted without comment. He says I've been writing "non-stop crap" about him for twenty years. Well, I've been a media critic for 20 years. The topic of Joe Klein has accounted for an infinitesimal number of the millions of words I imagine I have written. I could easily, off the top of my head, name at least 50 writers to whom I've devoted massively more attention. I'd begin, to move from the ridiculous to the sublime, with John Dewey and Walter Lippmann, whom I'm guessing would come in at numbers one and two.

4) Klein recounts a comment I allegedly made to him 20 years ago at a party. I have no recollection of ever speaking to Klein in a social setting. I actually make it a point to avoid it -- even though we are occasionally in the same room -- because I've alwaysexpected it would be unpleasant. It's possible that this conversation took place and I've forgotten it, of course, but I doubt it. I did once ask Klein a question from the audience at a Barnes & Noble reading he did for the paperback of his novel. He insisted to the room that no one had suffered for his lies about Primary Colors. I responded from the audience that he had sought to slander the reputation of the linguist who initially unmasked him in New York magazine in order to continue his lie. Klein responded that well, this man had "really pissed him off." No wonder. I mention this because Klein had no idea who I was at the time and asked me afterward. So if we spoke so memorably previously, I would find this incident inconsistent with the above. What's more, Klein invented a previous incident recently. He said he was "certain" I attacked him in the past for his position on the teachers union. But for the first 22 or so years of my career, I never wrote a word about the teachers union, much less Klein's position on it, which is of absolutely no interest to me at all. Klein has admitted lying in the past to his editors, his friends, and to the public. Does it tax my imagination that he would lie, now, about me? It does not.

5) I still like Michael Kinsley, in spite of this....

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