Monday, May 28, 2007
I received today this query/accusation from Ken Silverstein, Washington editor of Harper's magazine. Silverstein publishes on the Harper's site a blog titled "Washington Babylon," which describes itself as a "focused on political corruption in Washington, D.C."
dear david frum,
i recently learned that you received monthly payments of $16,000-plus from hollinger international in late-2000. i wanted to ask what those payments were for? also, in writing about the conrad black trial, shouldn't you have acknowledged receipt of this money from hollinger?
I wrote Silverstein back to tell him that I would post my answer on this site. Here it is:
Dear Ken Silverstein:
I don't think it is over-sensitive of me to detect a hint of an accusation in your letter, a suggestion that you have discovered some damning secret hitherto undisclosed.
In fact, I have repeatedly referred in this space and elsewhere to my long professional association with Conrad Black. But to obviate any possibility that any reader might be unaware of it, I gladly recapitulate it:
I worked as an associate editor at the Hollinger-owned Canadian magazine Saturday Night in 1987-88.
I began contributing articles to the Hollinger-owned Telegraph newspapers in the early 1990s.
I had for many years written a twice-weekly newspaper column for the Canadian newspaper, the Financial Post. When Hollinger bought the Financial Post and relaunched it as the National Post in 1998, my column followed.
For four months in 2000, I was hired to help develop a new Internet publication for Hollinger.
To anyone who might suggest that this history might unduly bias me in Conrad Black's favor, I offer 3 responses:
1) At all times, I received a market wage. I began work at Saturday Night before Hollinger bought it and continued at the same salary afterward. Likewise, I have continued to contribute at the same rates to the Telegraph and National Post since Hollinger sold those titles. My consulting fees in 2000 were in line with what I have charged other clients for similar work.
2) My last professional association with Hollinger ended 7 years ago.
3) I notice that many people who have managed to collect much larger sums from Hollinger for much less work have nonetheless managed to turn against Conrad Black.
Let me add one more thought on this matter of disclosure.
Disclosures can easily become silly and pedantic. Do I really have to mention that I used to write speeches for George W. Bush every time I write about him?
On the other hand, such disclosures can also easily miss the point. I have known Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel since I was a teenager. My wife was a copy girl at the Toronto Sun when Barbara Amiel was editor there. I have spent hundreds of hours over the years talking to Conrad and Barbara. I have seen them in prosperity and in travail, at their best and (since it happens to all of us) at their worst. I have heard every malicious story ever told about them - and I know also the record of their many, many unpublicized acts of kindness, charity, and forgiveness. When I share with my readers my conviction that the criminally accused Conrad Black is an honorable man, I do so on the basis of three decades of my best attempt to understand one of the most consistently interesting human beings I have ever met. A documentary maker once asked me to sum up my verdict on Conrad Black. I said that I could only echo Samuel Johnson's assessment of Edmund Burke: "You could not stand five minutes with that man beneath a shed while it rained without being convinced that he was one of the most remarkable men you had ever yet seen." How do I put that opinion between the parantheses of a "Full Disclosure" clause?
05/28 04:34 PM