Washington Times

In corner of portrait, now little typewritten scrap: "Other writers of the Times and elsewhere have discredited this coverage." Citation--To Walter Duranty 1932-- for his series of dispatches from Russia."

By Arnold Beichman

    The tenth floor walls of the New York Times building on West 43d Street are lined with huge photographic portraits of staff members who have won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting, editorial-writing, columning. And there are a lot of New York Times winners--(see if you can get the Pulitzer Prizes book with details).

    There has rarely been a dispute about a New York Times Pulitzer winner. And what disputes there have been died down and were soon forgetten.

    Except for one winner--Walter Duranty, (one should say the infamous Walter Duranty) who won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize "for his series of dispatches from Russia," to quote the citation.



STALIN'S APOLOGIST: Walter Duranty, the New York Times's man in Moscow. By S. J. Taylor. Oxford University Press. 404 pages. $24.95.

<< On April 13, the New York Times published a full-page house ad proudly heralding the award of the Pulitzer prize to the husband-and-wife team, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn who manned that newspaper's Beijing bureau. >   4      4  New York Times, April 13, 1990, page 10

> The ad also listed 60 previous N. Y. Times Pulitzer Prize winners, many of them truly great journalists--Arthur Krock, Anne O'Hare McCormick, Louis Stark, Scotty Reston, Brooks Atkinson, Mike Berger, Abe Rosenthal, Max Frankel, Hedrick Smith, William Safire, Thomas L. Friedman and Bill Keller. It's an honor roll which any newspaper would be proud of except for one stain.

<< In 1932, Walter Duranty, quite properly described as "Stalin's apologist," was also given a Pulitzer award "for dispassionate interpretive reporting of the news from Russia."

That's how the New York Times house ad described the citation quoting the Pulitzer Prize committee. ?   4     4  New York Times, April 13, 1990, pasge 13

<< Pulitzer Prize awards have always been controversial whether in the drama, history, journalism or other categories. Controversy, however, arises from a difference of opinion. Newspaper reporting--even interpretive reporting--is a matter of fact. As a reporter, Walter Duranty was a fraud, a mountebank who   fudged the facts, especially about the Great Famine of the 1930s in which millions and millions of men, women and children were shot, killed or were plain starved to death by Stalin's orders.

<< As one of the best known correspondents in the world for one of the best known newspapers in the world, Mr. Duranty's denial that there was a famine was accepted as gospel. Thus Mr. Duranty gulled not only the readers of the New York Times but because of the newspaper's prestige, he influenced the thinking of countless thousands of other readers about the character of Josef Stalin and the Soviet regime. And he certainly influenced the newly-elected President Roosevelt to recognize the Soviet Union. U   Robert Conquest, Harvest of Sorrow, (Harcourt, 1987), page 3.

<< Did he gull the editors of the New York Times, too? Ms. Taylor's book makes it clear that Carr Van Anda, the managing editor, Frederick T. Birchall, an assistant managing editor, and Edwin L. James, the later managing editor, were not happy with Mr. Duranty's Moscow reporting but they did nothing about it. Simeon Strunsky, a Times editorial writer, and Joseph Shaplen, a reporter who had watched the Bolshevik Revolution from a European base, were wary about Mr. Duranty but were unable to do anything about it. Mr. Birchall recommended that Mr. Shaplen replace Mr. Duranty in Moscow but, says Ms. Taylor, "the recommendation fell by the wayside," whatever that means. When Mr. Duranty of his own volition decided to become a special correspondent on a retainer basis for the New York Times, the newspaper published an editorial reassuring its readers that his reputation as "the most (sic) outstanding correspondent of an American newspaper during all the years of his faithful and brilliant work at Moscow will remain unimpaired in the slightest degree by the change now made." Aaarghhhh.

<< Ms. Taylor's research does not include what Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the longtime publisher of the New York Times,  thought about Mr. Duranty. Nor does she include a report published a year ago in the Washington Times quoting Vitaly Kobysh, an Izvestia political analyst, that Soviet authorities had opened archives in an attempt to unearth the relationship of Walter Duranty, the New York Times Moscow correspondent during the 1930s, with the Soviet Communist Party and the Stalin dictatorship. The Kobysh report was confirmed by another Soviet journalist, Igor Tronin, head of the foreign information department of Sovetskaya Moldavia, a daily newspaper published in Kishinev, while both men were visiting the United States.

<< What is shocking about Mr. Duranty's journalism is that not only did he know the horrifying facts about the Stalin famine but he also made private reports to the British Embassy about the real situation. The furthest Mr. Duranty went in his New York Times reportage was to say that "the Russians were hungry but not starving." And this was at a time when peasants in the Ukraine were dying of starvation at the rate of 25,000(ok) a day.

It would have been interesting to know what Mr. Duranty thought of his hero after the anti-Stalin speech by Nikita Khrushchev in February 1956 delivered some 19 months before Mr. Duranty died. We must remember, however, that for many Western intellectuals Stalin was also a socialist demi-god. So far as Ms. Taylor knows, the New York Times correspondent who invented the word, "Stalinism," never lost his admiration for the greatest mass murderer in all recorded history.


Walter Duranty, New York Times correspondent in the USSR.

2e. "There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition."(New York Times, March 31, 1933, page 13)


my column--10/90

The returns are now in--and this time for good-- about Pulitzer Prize-winning Walter Duranty, the onetime Moscow correspondent of the New York Times. The verdict as to his journalistic duplicity on behalf of Josef Stalin is now accepted unreservedly by his first victim, the New York Times itself, which for almost two decades, starting in the mid-1920s, allowed itself to be gulled by Duranty's infamous reporting during the Stalin-created Ukraine famine and thereafter.

<< In fact a signed editorial commentary in the New York Times last month described Duranty as responsible for "some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper." (Malcolm Muggeridge then of the Manchester Guardian and Duranty's contemporary described him as "the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in fifty years of journalism.") And a highly favorable review of the biography which sparked this latest indictment of Duranty, "Stalin's Apologist" by S. J. Taylor, appeared in the Times Sunday Book Review on the same day as the Times editorial by Karl E. Meyer.

<< One more official institutional action should be taken if the honor of the Pulitzer Prizes for journalism is to be restored. Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize must now be revoked. There is precedent for such an action. Janet Cooke's Pulitzer Prize was recalled as soon as it was realized that the Washington Post reporter's story about a youthful drug addict was a fake.

<< One institution and one man can act to nullify the award--Columbia University and its president, Michael Sovern.   &   3                     Each April when the Pulitzer Prize are announced, Dr. Sovern intones the names of previous winners. In the light of the New York Times's repudiation of Duranty's journalism, Dr. Sovern, it would seem to me, would necessarily have to follow the lead of the New York Times and publicly announce that Duranty's Pulitzer Prize is hereby annulled.

<< These awards are formally approved by the president of Columbia University on recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board. Presumably the Columbia University Board of Trustees could override such a nullification. However, one of the Columbia Trustees is Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, as was his father, Arthur Hays Sulzberger before him. There is no doubt in my mind that in an earlier era, the onetime president of Columbia University, Nicholas Murray Butler, would in similar circumstances have acted without hesitation to expunge the name of such a one as Walter Duranty from the Pulitzer Prize honor roll. Columbia University President Sovern can do no less. His action would unquestionably have the support of today's Mr. Sulzberger.