C-SPAN's David Irving contretemps
Posted: April 13, 2005
An abortive plan to air a lecture by David Irving on C-SPAN to "balance" an appearance by noted historian and Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University was met with widespread condemnation in the media, among academics and in the Jewish community.
C-SPAN's Book TV had invited Lipstadt to discuss History On Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving, her recent account of the 2000 libel trial in which the court concluded that Irving was an "anti-Semite" who "deliberately skewed [historical] evidence."
Lipstadt declined to appear, however, when she learned that the network intended to broadcast a recent speech by Irving as an "opposing view."
During the presentation that C-Span wanted to air, Irving claimed that Jews around the world (whom he described as the "traditional enemies of free speech") had conducted a concerted campaign against him since the 1960s. He also repeated his frequent claim that Auschwitz's infamous gas chambers, in which hundreds of thousands of people were murdered, were actually air raid shelters.
Concerned that C-SPAN might air Irving's lecture even after Lipstadt pulled out, some 600 historians and scholars signed a petition urging the station to reconsider. Citing the British court's 2000 finding that Irving "persistently and deliberately misrepresent[s] and manipulate[s] historical evidence," the petition stated that broadcasting Irving's lecture would provide "publicity and legitimacy to Holocaust-denial," which is "nothing more than a mask for anti-Jewish bigotry." The petition was organized by the Pennsylvania-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.
On April 3, Book TV aired an apology by its executive producer, Connie Doebele, for the station's handling of the matter, and stated that it had no plans to air Irving's speech in the future.