Stengel-gate/National Constitution Center Update: We Got Mail!

So as regular readers know, after finding fourteen clear factual errors in Richard Stengel’s June 23rd Time magazine cover story* on the Constitution, I have been on a crusade to embarrass the magazine until it corrects or retracts that story. I have explained that I consider its publication to be a scandal, both because it appeared as the cover story and because who the author is:

The author is not only the Managing Editor for Time, but he spent two years as President and CEO of the National Constitution Center. And even today, he works with the National Constitution Center’s Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution, whose stated mission is “to help both professional journalists and students interested in journalism understand constitutional issues more deeply.” That is right. He is there to help journalists understand the Constitution better.

So I wrote an email to David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, asking (1) what Stengel’s role was in the Center, and (2) whether they had an official statement about this whole mess, particularly correcting Mr. Stengel’s inaccuracies.

Well, on Friday afternoon, I got this email in response:

from David Eisner [email omitted]

to edmd5.20.10@gmail.com

date Fri, Jul 8, 2011 at 4:26 PM

subject Response to email

Dear Mr. Worthing,

Thank you for your email regarding Rick Stengel’s Time magazine cover article on the Constitution. As you’d imagine, the article has stirred up a lot of thoughts from people who care deeply about the Constitution, many critical and many supportive. I’m sure you’re aware that the issues you raise go to the center of many of the most important current debates around how we view the Constitution.

We’re working to bring some of those thoughts and issues together and will share them on our blog http://blog.constitutioncenter.org in the coming days.

Best,

David E

David Eisner

President and CEO

National Constitution Center

“Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Now that seems to be saying, “we’re working on a response.” Also, reader Ken Weibe wrote to them as well and got this response:

From: “Ashley Berke” [email omitted]

To: “Ken Wiebe” [email omitted]

Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 17:23:25 -0400

Subject: RE: Stengel Time Article

Dear Mr. Wiebe,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Our CEO David Eisner recently received a similar email and I wanted to share with you his response:

Thank you for your email regarding Rick Stengel’s Time magazine cover article on the Constitution. As you’d imagine, the article has stirred up a lot of thoughts from people who care deeply about the Constitution, many critical and many supportive. I’m sure you’re aware that the issues you raise go to the center of many of the most important current debates around how we view the Constitution.

We’re working to bring some of those thoughts and issues together and will share them on our bloghttp://blog.constitutioncenter.org in the coming days.

Ashley Berke

Director of Public Relations

National Constitution Center

525 Arch Street, Independence Mall

Philadelphia, PA 19106

So it’s not exactly a form email. She seems frankly to be referring back to my email, and quoting from the response.

And for what that was worth, this is what Mr. Weibe wrote to her to prompt that response:

From: Ken Wiebe [email omitted]

Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 1:49 PM

To: PR

Subject: Stengel Time Article

You’re in the public spotlight. Are you going to rise to the occasion, prove your relevancy and allegiance, and respond to the egregious attack on the Constitution by one of *your own members*?

I am sincerely interested (as are many, many others) in what your organization has to say about this terrible article. It is indefensible, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt, depending on how you respond (and whether you respond). After that, we will all judge you by the stance you take, and will act accordingly.

In Liberty,

Ken Wiebe

So the takeaway I have is that they are seeking some more time. There are good, upright and honest reasons for them to need more time. I have my own personal speculation on what they might consider “due diligence” on this subject, but I won’t share them. But in my experience, I have also seen people falsely ask for more time, when they were only seeking to try to draw things out in the hopes that anger will fade. But I always start by giving people the benefit of the doubt and this will be no exception.

Regardless, it means that they know about this controversy, and have at least promised to address it. And that is an encouraging sign, and may lead to other things.

Stay tuned.

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* Like in my previous post I will no longer be linking directly to the original piece. I am not going to send him any more hits on his website. But if you go to my post documenting the fourteen errors in his piece, you will also find a link if you wish to fact-check this post by determining whether Stengel’s piece is as bad as a claim.

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