Responding to outrage of ADL and others, editor claims booklet is protected under First Amendment.
A 28-page booklet published by Holocaust denier Bradley R. Smith has touched off a controversy on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, L.I., after the school newspaper became the first in the country to run it in last week’s edition.
"It’s not appropriate, it’s hurtful and I’m offended," said Ronit Rimon, a 22-year-old senior. "They [the newspaper] have the right of freedom of speech, but they should have looked it over more carefully to see if it would have offended people."
Marilyn Gottlieb of the Anti-Defamation League’s Long Island office called it an "outrage that this student newspaper decided to distribute a Nazi revisionist newsletter."
The university’s vice president for university relations, Michael DeLuisa, said the administration was "disgusted by it."
"There is no excuse for putting something like this in the newspaper," he said. "The students used severe misjudgment and a complete lack of sensitivity. I can assure you that weíll be working with them to do what we can to eliminate any future examples such as this."
But Jeffrey Ross, the ADL’s director of campus/higher education affairs, said this was the third consecutive year that the Hofstra newspaper, The Chronicle, had run material from Smith, widely regarded as the nation’s leading Holocaust denier.
Ross said The Chronicle ran ads the last two years, including one last year in which Smith offered $250,000 to anyone who could arrange a nationally televised debate between him and the ADL.
"The [Hofstra] administration has had either no response or a tepid response, which has unfortunately provided a green light for the campus newspaper to continue to publish this material," he said. "And this year it has made Smith’s magazine part of its newspaper."
DeLuisa said that had the administration known of the paper’s intent to run the booklet, "at the very least we would have tried to talk some sense into the students." If that did not change their mind, he said, the university would have ìtaken out an ad and expressed our views." But he stressed that the university has "no right to stop the students" from publishing it.
"They have First Amendment rights, and all we can do is educate them and hope they do what is right," he said.The Chronicle’s editor, Shawna Van Ness, defended the decision to publish the booklet, for which Bradley paid the paper $450. And she said that "no one from the university has said anything to us" about running Smithís material in the three years she has been on the staff.
Van Ness, a 20-year-old junior, said the editorial board reviewed the Smith booklet before deciding to run it. It includes articles titled "The Normalization of Gas Chamber Skepticism" and "Jan Karski: Eyewitness to Gas Chambers?"
"We voted on it and approved it," said Van Ness. "It was accepted on the principle of the First Amendment and his [Smith’s] right to free speech. While we did publish it, it does not necessarily mean we agree or disagree with it or endorse what he had to say."
The ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said there is "something perverse and unsavory about publishing these ads and inserts under the rubric of the First Amendment. The First Amendment does not mandate the publishing of everything. Would they have published an ad questioning whether slavery ever existed in America?
"We haven’t learned very much in 60 years," he added. "I wonder what Hofstra is teaching if there was a deliberate decision to publish this hideous diatribe."
Smith, in a phone interview, said he was investigating a report that someone intent on preventing his publication’s distribution had stolen 1,000 copies of the paper. He said he paid for 5,000 copies of his booklet to be distributed; the paper has a circulation of 6,500.
Although Hofstra was the first university to distribute his booklet, he said three other schools have also agreed. He declined to identify them because "it causes too much pressure on the editors."
Ross of the ADL said that most college papers have rejected Smith’s ads since he started placing them in 1990. Nevertheless, Smith said, 89 college papers carried his ad last year: "the best year ever." He said it costs him $60 to $90 per 1,000 copies.
"I want to put revisionist texts into the hands of the students," he said.
But one Hofstra student, David Newman, a 22-year-old senior, said he found it "disturbing" to see this material because "I visited seven concentration camps in three different countries and saw the gas chambers myself. I know it happened. And my father fought in Germany and arrived at Dachau after it was liberated. He brought food to the people there and saw what happened to them firsthand."
The ADL’s Long Island regional director, Phyllis Barell, sent a letter to the editor of The Chronicle asking for a meeting. She also placed an ad in the paper saying, among other things, "Responsible journalists do not disseminate malicious falsehoods" and "Holocaust deniers distort the meaning of the First Amendment."
Hofstra Hillel’s executive director, Rabbi Meir Mitelman, said he was planning a forum next week on free speech and hate speech.
"We’re not going to debate the Holocaust," he said. "But the focus will be on people like Bradley Smith."