Email To The Editors

Herbert Stein’s Slip

The Shearered Truth

Readers who might enjoy parsing all the careless errors in A.O. Scott’s silly piece about Cody Shearer and Chris Matthews should stop right here, and use your very thoughtful link to my current Salon column. It’s a longish list, I’m afraid, but most of Scott’s mistakes should be obvious to anyone who can read. Just to correct the record in Slate, here they are:

Scott writes: “On Jan. 8 last year, shortly after she had testified in the Paula Jones trial, Willey reportedly had a frightening encounter with a jogger near her house in Richmond, Va.” Fact: As I mentioned, the alleged incident on Jan. 8 was three days before Willey testified in the Jones case. Otherwise, what was the point of “intimidating” her?

Scott writes: “Matthews seemed to have a pretty good idea who [the mysterious jogger] was–an idea that he got from the Drudge Report.” Fact: As I noted, the Drudge Report picked up the jogger’s supposed identity from the Matthews broadcast in an item posted the following day. That’s why the column was primarily about Matthews.

Scott writes: “The next night, chatting with Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and NOW President Patricia Ireland, Matthews was less coy. The Shearer in question, he declared, was Brooke’s twin brother, Cody.” Fact: As I wrote, quoting the transcript of May 11, Matthews identified Cody Shearer by name the night Willey appeared. There are many words to describe the way Matthews behaved. “Coy” is not among them.

Scott writes: “Shearer could not have been Willey’s stalker, Conason declared, because he was on a transcontinental flight last Jan. 8–a flight on which Shearer happened to bump into his brother-in-law’s old boss former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.” Fact: Actually, what I “declared” was that Shearer has documents proving he was in San Francisco Jan. 8–and that he sat next to Christopher on a flight back to Washington Jan. 11. This mistake is a little worse than what Matthews did. He had to make a phone call to get the facts. All Scott had to do was read them.

Scott writes: “According to a recent Drudge posting, a man with a gun was arrested outside Shearer’s house a few days after Matthews’ Willey segment aired.” Fact: (This is exhausting) Many news sources, including the AP, reported the appearance of a gun-waving man at Shearer’s home, not just Drudge. Those same sources also made it clear that the gun nut wasn’t arrested outside Shearer’s house, but in fact arranged voluntary surrender to the police a few days later.

As for my failure to “explain” why nutty people are nuts–and why they weave Shearer family conspiracies around an event that may or may not really have occurred–that is beyond my competence. Sort of like journalism (or even reading) is for A. O. Scott.

–Joe Conason

New York

A.O. Scott replies:I thank Joe Conason for pointing out my errors, and I apologize to the readers of Slate for my carelessness. The article as now published reflects the corrections.

The Perk Mentality

Scott Shuger has got to be kidding in his analysis of Ronald F. Thiemann’s leaving the deanship of Harvard Divinity School (see “Today’s Papers“). Where in the world did he get the idea that “university provision of computers and other office equipment is a form of personal compensation”?!?

The university owns (or holds the lease for) the above “computers and other office equipment” specifically for the purpose of furthering its goals and thus can restrict the use of these machines. How many businesses do you know that say, “Welcome to the company! Here’s your very own PC/fax/copy machine! Do whatever you want with it! Take it home with you!”?

Rachel Heslin

Canoga Park, Calif.

Clothes Reading

Herb Stein’s discussion of the woman’s lace slip in “It Seems to Me” was egocentric, condescending, and invasive. He presumes to know who this woman is and what motivates her. He takes her personal choices and gestures and makes them his. Likewise, he has no sense for street or youth culture. The discussion of male clothes was racist and classist. Those most commonly dressing like gangstas these days are middle-class white males from 12 to 20. The Brooks Brothers look, via Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, has become more common among male minorities of color who have made this aspirational attire their own, as statements of ownership, arrival, and pride.

Jodi Dean

Geneva, N.Y.

Slip Up

If Herbert Stein had dropped by any women’s lingerie section he would have noticed that most slips–even the cheapest nylon variety–usually sport a bit of lace at the hem. When you stroll by the windows of La Perla or even Victoria’s Secret every day, a trip to the softer side of Sears isn’t likely to make you feel pretty, witty, or grand. Next time Stein presumes to understand a woman, he might want to try getting a firmer grip on her undergarments.

Leigh Bardugo


Herbert Stein replies: I don’t know how the reader got any inference of racism in my article. The article does not refer to any race. And I was not condescending to the woman on the bus. I was identifying with her. I don’t know what proportion of slips are sold with lace hems. I was married to the same woman for almost 60 years. I have lived with the question, “Is my slip showing?” I know that many of those slips did not have lace hems. Perhaps that was because most of her slips were bought in an earlier era. Anyway, what’s the point? I was not writing an article about slips. I was writing about what I believe is a general tendency to dress to show, mainly to ourselves, what kind of person we are or would like to think ourselves to be. That generalization does not depend on the proportion of slips that have lace hems. I confessed that I had not talked to the woman in the bus and that I was only imagining what she was thinking. Perhaps I have been too much influenced by reading John Keats lately. He was said to have “sympathetic imagination.” And he made his slip, also, about Cortez seeing the Pacific Ocean.