Kai Bird: Victim of sloppy reporting





I wish reporters would exercise more judgment when reporting people's comments. It happens all the time, but here's one example I noticed over the weekend in an AP story about my friend Kai Bird's discovery that Alger Hiss was probably not the spy identified in the Venona papers as"Ales" but, rather, a U.S. official named Wilder Foote. It's a story to whose research I have contributed in the past, though I try to stay away from Alger for lots of reasons. Anyway, here.

Note that when the reporter asks Foote's grandson about Kai's discovery, he replied,"I can only assume that Mr. Bird has ulterior motives to besmirch my grandfather's name, possibly for Mr. Bird's own celebrity." Now, this is plainly crazy. Kai shared the Pulitzer Prize in biography lately. Writing a 17,000-word investigation of a 50-year-old Cold War argument that hardly anyone cares about anymore and identifying as the culprit someone almost no one has ever heard of is hardly a sensible path to" celebrity" for a Pulitzer Prize and National Books Critics' Circle Award-winning biographer. If the reporter had considered the comment even for a moment, it did not deserve to go into the piece.

Meanwhile, let's see what those conservatives who have so much invested in Hiss' guilt have to say about Kai's careful research. I'm guessing most will try to ignore it.


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