This afternoon the History News Network site published a statement by Robert A. Schneider, professor of European history at Indiana University and the editor of the American Historical Review. Regular TNN readers will recall that the AHR is the journal to which Peter D. Klingman sent a submission (as Professor Schneider calls it, taking issue with its having been described as an “article” in its unpublished state) concerning the fashion in which Stanley I. Kutler of the University of Wisconsin transcribed White House tape conversations for his book Abuse Of Power. The Klingman submission – rejected by the AHR late last week – and the Kutler transcripts were the subject of an article by Patricia Cohen in the Feb. 1 New York Times.
Professor Schneider indicates that he’s rather unhappy that the article appeared at all; he is also dismayed that the contents of the AHR’s letter of rejection were described in a subsequent Times article and reproduced in facsimile at the HNN site (until replaced, at his request, by a post quoting the letter). He remarks that the controversy (especially in online forums) that ensued as a result of Ms. Cohen’s article “has been characterized by journalistic impetuousness, personal vindictiveness, petty-mindedness, unwarranted inferences, and a dearth of decorum.”
What Professor Schneider especially objects to are what he regards as Mr. Klingman’s “efforts at self-promotion.” He refers to emails sent by Mr. Klingman after the submission of his essay, which happened on Jan 19 of this year. Four days later, the historian sent an email to Professor Schneider asking if the fact that the American Historical Association (the publisher of the AHR) was a co-plaintiff with Professor Kutler in a lawsuit regarding former Vice President Cheney’s records would “present a conflict of interest for you, regarding the publication of my article in the AHR.”
On the day after the publication of the Times article, Professor Schneider says, he received another email from Mr. Klingman stating that he had not sent Ms. Cohen a copy of his submission to the journal. He continues: “This was strange indeed as [Mr. Klingman], or a surrogate, could be the only source as it certainly did not come from the AHR.”
It’s hard to tell if the professor is saying that Ms. Cohen was given a copy of “Abuse Of Power: A Review And Inquiry Into Stanley Kutler’s Editing Of The Nixon Tapes,” as Mr. Klingman’s submission was titled. Her article does not quote from the submission and, from the way in which its contents are described, it seems more likely that they were summarized to her by someone. There is no indication in the article that she spoke directly with Mr. Klingman. HNN editor Rick Shenkman’s remarkable investigation into the origins of the Times article states that Ms. Cohen’s interest in the submission was stirred when she was contacted by one “Mr. Y,” identified as the author of a very recently published book in which transcripts from the Nixon tapes appear. It may have been this person, or Silent Coup co-author Len Colodny, with whom Mr. Y was in touch, who told her about Mr. Klingman’s work.
Professor Schneider also says that Mr. Klingman, in the Feb. 2 email, stated that if he did not hear from the AHR about his submission within 48 hours, he would “assume, because of a conflict of interest, you can not make a decision [to accept the submission] and I will withdraw at the time the article for your consideration.” Now, if the statement quoted is what Mr. Klingman wrote, it does sound quite high-handed. The AHR isn’t a newsweekly or a website, and would certainly seem entitled to take its time in examining a submission, especially one focusing on a subject decades in the past. Mr. Klingman, in the last week, made a brief and slightly Delphic comment on the controversy at The Daily Beast, replying to John Dean’s post dismissing the Times article and Professor Kutler’s critics. One wonders if he will be heard from before long at HNN. In any event, it seems unlikely that this controversy will go away very soon.