By Eric Wolff, Special to the Sun
The New York Sun, New York, New York
Jun 10, 2003; Section: Front page; Page:1
Bowing to a letter writing campaign from Ukrainian- American groups, the
Pulitzer Prize board has quietly convened a subcommittee to investigate
revoking the award it gave to New York Times correspondent Walter
Duranty in 1932.
"We're just going to look into a variety of complaints, just look into
everything," said the administrator for the board, Sigvard Gissler.
Inspired by the 70 th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine - the winter
of 1932-33, when Stalin's FiveYear Plan deliberately starved Ukrainian
peasants into submission, killing millions - the Ukrainian groups have
mobilized 45,000 letter writers to call the board's attention to the way
Duranty deliberately ignored the mass deaths in his reports.
"We want them to revoke the Pulitzer,and also acknowledge that Duranty
was a propagandist for Stalin," said a spokesman for the Ukrainian Congress
Committee of America.
Duranty's Pulitzer was given for reporting done in 1931, and did not
include his coverage of the famine.
"The prize is not meant to say anything about a winner's body of work
over time," Mr. Gissler said."It's about a specific set of stories."
The inaccuracy of Duranty's reporting is beyond question - his cover-ups
of Stalinist atrocities while covering Russia for the New York Times from
1922-1941 are legendary.
"It's clear that he knew about it," said the chairman of the Ukrainian
Canadian Civil Liberties Association, John Gregorovich. "He favored the
Soviet regime, so he lied to protect it."
Mr. Gregorovich is borne out by Sally Taylor's biography of Duranty,
"Stalin's Apologist," and by Leonard Leshuk's justpublished "U.S.
Intelligence Perceptions of Soviet power 1921-1946." Both books cite
incidents of Duranty telling American and British Embassy officials of the
"millions dying out there."
The New York Times has acknowledged that Duranty's journalism has
been discredited by later reporting in the Times and elsewhere.
The Pulitzer subcommittee charged with reviewing Duranty's prize anew
was named in April.
This is not the first time the board has reviewed Duranty's case. In
1990, the publication of Ms. Taylor's biography inspired a full board review
that resulted in a unanimous decision not to revoke the prize.
According to Mr. Gissler, the board at the time felt Duranty's writing
occurred "in a different era and in different circumstances."
That era coincided with the rise of Soviet Communism and Joseph Stalin.
The peg-legged Duranty was in Russia for the end of the Russian Civil
War and had a prime seat for the erection of the new worker's paradise. His
Communist sympathies were no secret, and at the time the consequences of
supporting the Bolsheviks were beneficial, as opposed to his other ruling
"There are some who say that the N.K.V.D. [the secret police]
blackmailed him for his sexual tastes - he liked women in chains," said
historian Robert Conquest."Or that they provided him with agreeable women."
Others suspect Duranty won his way into Russian favor with his constant
papering over of Soviet crimes. His fawning finally won him an interview
with Stalin in 1929, a major journalistic coup.
As Stalin consolidated his power in the early 1930s, Duranty filed
reports that ignored crimes against humanity that included not only the
famine, but also the Collectivization Terror of 1931, in which millions of
Soviet peasants were forcibly relocated to collective farms and factories,
and Stalin's government and military purges.
Through it all, Duranty used his towering reputation (though his own
stature was short) among foreign correspondents to denounce reporters trying
to report Stalin's crimes accurately.
Encouraged by Duranty's erroneous reports, some Westerners touted Soviet
Communism as the "New Civilization." They elevated Duranty to new heights of
influence, and he, in turn, encouraged their enthusiasm with more false
Malcolm Muggeridge, a Russian correspondent during the same period as
Duranty, attended the banquet announcing American recognition of the Soviet
regime in 1933 - an event sometimes credited to Duranty's whitewashed
While everyone honored received polite applause, "the one really
prolonged applause was evoked by" Duranty.
Muggeridge, who went on to his own impressive career, called Duranty
"the greatest liar I have ever met in 50 years of journalism."
Despite all of the evidence against him, the chances of the board
revoking Duranty's 70-year-old prize are slim. In 1981, a Washington Post
reporter, Janet Cooke, voluntarily returned her prize after it was learned
that her prize-winning stories were largely fiction, but no Pulitzer has
ever been revoked.
The New York Sun, NY, NY, June 10, 2003
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