Penguin declares Klein biased, sticks author with onus for accuracy

››› ››› DAVID BROCK

In a statementPDF file posted June 22 on its website, Penguin Group (USA), which owns the imprint Sentinel, publisher of Edward Klein's The Truth About Hillary, attempted to wash its hands of the controversy surrounding the book. The statement claimed that "the opinions and viewpoints" in the book do not reflect those of Penguin or its parent company, Pearson plc.

In a passage impugning its own author's sense of journalistic fairness, Penguin declared that "factual accuracy does not mean unopinionated or unbiased. Mr. Klein's interpretation of what he reports is unabashedly his opinion. Neither he nor Sentinel pretend otherwise."

Not only did Penguin impugn Klein's fairness, it refused to stand by the accuracy of his book, stating that "it is the long-established and legally recognized practice in book publishing that it is the author's responsibility to assure factual accuracy."

On the issue of the legal vetting of the book, Penguin appeared to pass the buck down to the conservative Sentinel imprint, stating that "the author satisfied Sentinel that he could support statements in the book now under attack."

The statement, which is linked from the front page of the Penguin website with the headline "Penguin Group (USA) Corporate Response to Widespread Reaction," falsely implied that critics of the Klein book might favor "censorship."

In a June 20 letter to Penguin, Media Matters for America challenged the publisher to explain its editorial and fact-checking processes in vetting the book, which had been discredited as containing false and defamatory statements even before publication. The letter demanded clarification from Penguin as to whether certain factual claims in the book are valid and solidly sourced, but in no way suggested censorship of anyone's views, which we have neither the power nor the desire to bring about.

The full text of Penguin's response:

The book publishing industry has always fought against censorship of any kind. While the opinions of and statements made by Edward Klein, the author of The Truth About Hillary, published by Sentinel on June 21, 2005, do not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Penguin Group (USA) or our parent company, Pearson plc, Penguin Group (USA)'s commitment to defending our authors' right to be heard extends to every author we publish.

Penguin Group (USA) publishes approximately 3,500 new books each year through our numerous imprints. Our books represent a broad range of views, touching on every point of the political compass. With regard to Penguin Group (USA)'s editorial standards, it is the long-established and legally recognized practice in book publishing that it is the author's responsibility to assure factual accuracy.

Mr. Klein's book received the same legal scrutiny that Penguin Group (USA) undertakes for other nonfiction books that it publishes, and during that process the author satisfied Sentinel that he could support statements in the book now under attack. What should also be understood is that factual accuracy does not mean unopinionated or unbiased. Mr. Klein's interpretation and characterization of what he reports is unabashedly his opinion. Neither he nor Sentinel pretend otherwise. He has the absolute right to express that opinion, and it now is for the reading public to decide whether he makes his case.

Having said that, it is also important to note that Penguin Group (USA) has never let public opinion or the media dictate what we will or will not publish.

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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Klein's "The Truth About Hillary"
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