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Wrong Impression

In response to:

Washington After Dark from the December 18, 1969 issue

To the Editors:

In my discussion of the November 15th Washington Mobilization (NYR, Dec. 18), this section appears:

The Moratorium [suffered] a confrontation demanded by the Weathermen. The ambassadors from this farther shore…presented their terms. They would take $25,000 to leave town without committing nuisances or visiting embarrassments.

This anecdote has, of course, been published in greater detail in other places. In reading those accounts, I have been troubled to notice that nowhere in any of them does one of their hosts say that the Weathermen flatly demanded $25,000 as a price for peace. Everyone’s informant, including my own, seems to have inferred from the manner of the Weathermen that this was their message; there are no direct quotations putting the demand in terms of extortion. Jeff Cowan, who had a major part in speaking for the Moratorium during these conversations, says indeed that he did not even find that implication in the remarks of the Weathermen.

Perhaps the inference is just. At the same time, it is no more than an inference. I apologize to the Weathermen, who by the way have not asked for an apology, because all of us ought to have learned the price of judging people by the labels they bear and of allowing our suspicions and our prejudices to assign to the evidence against them a weight it is not large enough to bear. No one should be judged by his enemies, and everyone deserves the most precise and scrupulous assay of the case against him. I am sorry that, in the case of the Weathermen, I broke both rules.

Murray Kempton

New York City

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