The LA Weekly editor has posted a defiant response to the United Farm Workers demand for a retraction of an earlier column he wrote lauding the Times series and chastising the union. Excerpt:
At times my work has drawn criticism, protest, denunciation and condemnation. Yet not once has anything I�ve penned drawn the direct threat of a lawsuit. Not until now, that is. Sitting in front of me is a 20-page demand that threatens such action if the Weekly does not �correct� or retract what I have written....
The L.A. Times has been handed a similar threat. So has the Bakersfield Californian. Even some lonely bloggers who have recently written about the UFW have been contacted by the union or its hired PR agents and directly warned not to continue criticizing it.
This attack on critical reporters is the UFW�s orchestrated response to the Times� recent four-part series on the union, which raised some very serious doubts over how the legacy of Cesar Chavez is playing out in the fields of California....
The union itself, however, has responded in the worst way possible. Instead of taking any of the very valid press criticism to heart and conducting some minimal good-faith re-examination of its own work, it has, instead, bunkered in and lashed out wildly at its critics. The UFW has enlisted Hollywood publicist Steve Rivers, as well as local Congressman Howard Berman, in its defensive PR campaign. Berman, to his credit, is an original co-author of landmark state agricultural-labor-protection legislation, and his tight relationship with the UFW dates back decades. But Berman and the UFW are also integral political partners, and union cash was a primary lubricant of the legendary Waxman-Berman political machine. No wonder, then, that the UFW has called in its chits in hiring Berman and other prominent Democrats � like former Clinton cabinet secretary Mickey Kantor � to run offense against the press.
I previously mentioned the UFW's original gripe and Truthdig's report on a meeting between UFW officials and Times editors. I've also learned that, the day before that meeting, there was a tense powwow at the Times attended by Berman, Councilman Alex Padilla, MALDEF president Ann Marie Tallman, California Community Foundation CEO Antonia Hernandez and
Maria Casillas, President of Families in Schools. Apparently, LAT editor Dean Baquet's assurances that he stands behind the UFW series drew an angry reaction and the discussion expanded into a larger grievance session about Times coverage of Latino issues.