Mr. Gergen's Interview with Mr. Ambrose


Mr. Balkoski is the author of Beyond the Beachhead.

Last week David Gergen interviewed Stephen Ambrose on the PBS show,"The Newshour." It has attracted a lot of criticism. Several critics wrote PBS to complain. Mr. Balkoski's letter appears below.

Dear NewsHour:

I feel very sad that NewsHour, a program of heretofore unimpeachable standards, has deemed it necessary to air the David Gergen interview with Stephen Ambrose on Tuesday July 30. To me, this interview was appalling and disgraceful. For a news program that prides itself on telling both sides of a story, the Gergen - Ambrose interview clearly was intended to throw Ambrose"a softball" to ease the pain and embarassment of his recent plagiarism scandal. This was not"news." Rather, the contrast with the standard investigative reporting and balanced debates normally featured on the show was astonishing. It appears that politicians are routinely asked hard questions about debatable behavior; celebrities are not. Ambrose broke laws: if you doubt this, examine US Copyright infringement laws and read any reputable media story on the plagiarism scandal to determine exactly what, in the end, Ambrose did. Indeed, please examine the URL link for your own sister-organization, National Public Radio, when it examined the Ambrose story in detail in January. The facts were straightforward, and Ambrose did not emerge as the heroic figure he did on NewsHour. Here is the URL:

The facts are clear that Dr. Ambrose plagiarized others' work. Most sadly of all, plagiarism hurts people, as it has hurt me. I am the author of one of the books from which Dr. Ambrose"inappropriately copied" (in the gentle phraseology of the New York Times). As Casey Stengel used to say:"You can look it up." My book was"Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy." His book was"Citizen-Soldiers." For specific references to the copied passages, please check the website archives employing a search for:"Ambrose, Plagiarism."

I find it shocking that Doris Kearns Goodwin was unceremoniously removed from NewsHour as a commentator, but Dr. Ambrose, whose unethical behavior far exceeded that of Ms. Goodwin, was offered the opportunity of defending his indefensible behavior with no dissenting point of view allowed. I ask you to examine the tape again of the Gergen - Ambrose interview and ask yourself the hard question: Is this the quality of news we expect to offer the public on NewsHour? For me, the answer is clear: it is not. There is little that I can do beyond writing this letter of protest, but rest assured that for the foreseeable future, I, my family, my outraged neighbors here in Baltimore, my WWII veteran friends, and my fellow authors who have been victims of plagiarism will no longer be viewing NewsHour.

I repeat the first sentence of this e-mail: I find this sad.

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More Comments:

Elizabeth Robinson - 11/13/2002

I am appalled that you allow Margaret Warner to constantly talk with her hands. It is extremely rude and very annoying. I leave the room when she is on. If this continues, I will no longer watch this program.

To think I thought this program was one of the few on TV that had classy news interviewers, this is a major disappointment.

mark safranski - 8/17/2002

The " Truman A-Bomb " question has been periodically aired for several decades. At every point the revisionists fail to offer a single shred of evidence that in the absence of using an atomic bomb that the US a) would not have invaded Japan's home islands in great force and b) that the Japanese Imperial Army had not intended to fight to the bitter end as they had on Okinawa. Nor do they comment on the fact that the Imperial Cabinet was deadlocked on surrender even AFTER Hiroshima ( so much for the " demonstration bomb " counterfactual - what would be a more convincing test than watching one of your cities vanish ?)Without the bomb the slaughter would have been unimaginable.

The irony is, in their eagerness to defame their own country, the revisionists who are primarily leftists of one stripe or another are whitewashing the crimes of a highly racist, ultranationalist, fascist regime. Perhaps in several decades they'll be shilling for the Nuremburg war criminals too.

Paul N. Hehn - 8/14/2002

What was appalling was not the plagiarism problem--that was an obvious whitewash--but his simplification of
the facts and interpretation of recent history, particularly the comments made about the dropping of the atomic
bomb which were erroneous and frankly nationalistic flagwaving. According to him Truman did not
make a mistake in dropping the bomb, that many hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives were saved and
Japan was not really beaten to its knees.
Well, I was in the occupation force that went into Yokosuka, the big Japanese naval base, the first week of September and I saw the awful devastation that Japan had undergone. While Yokasuka did not seem to have been hit much and thegiant
harbor cranes that unloaded our ship, why exactly I don't know. But the area from there up to Tokyo was badly
damaged--obliterated is more accurate. Moveover, Gergen's awed look and deferential manner to Ambrose
and his recanting on all his former views in favor of the conventional views exhonerating Truman were hard to
take. Paul N. Hehn, emeritus history professor

Arthur Goldschmidt - 8/14/2002

To announce that you will no longer watch a program because one interviewer, one who almost never appears on the News Hour any more. threw softball questions at a popularizer who has been unmasked as a plagiarist may publicize your sense of injury at having been plagiarized, but will do nothing to ensure that you will get better American news coverage most of the time. Where will you get your news now: CNN? Fox? Brian Williams? Probably your best bet is to change over to the BBC. Be sad, all right, but not uninformed.