Three Big Books

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The definitive history of the
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome cover-up.

As the publisher and editor-in-chief of a small newspaper in New York, Charles Ortleb was the first journalist to devote a publication to uncovering the truth about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He assigned Neenyah Ostrom the duty of following every twist and turn of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome story. No newspaper in the world did more to warn the world about the virus called HHV-6 which seems to be triggering Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and many other immunological disorders.

This provocative book will end the injustice of the silent treatment Neenyah Ostrom's reporting has been getting from the media and The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome community. Ostrom blew the lid off one of the biggest medical secrets of our time: the link between the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome epidemic and AIDS.

Ostrom interviewed most of the major researchers in the field, as well as countless patients and government scientists. She uncovered so many similarities between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and AIDS that she came to the conclusion that they are part of the same epidemic, and she argued that until their connection is admitted by top government researchers, there is little hope of making real progress in the fight against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Charles Ortleb's book captures all the challenges and excitement of running a small newspaper that was publishing a brilliant journalist who essentially was the Woodward and Bernstein of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome epidemic. In Rolling Stone, David Black said Ortleb's newspaper deserved a Pulitzer Prize.

The David France Story

The David France Story

On October 31, 2016, the author of Truth to Power wrote to Sonny Mehta, the Editor-in-Chief of Knopf, urging him not to publish David France's How to Survive a Plague, a book attacking the New York Native, because it is riddled with falsehoods and basically written by a disgruntled,  sociopathic former employee of New York Native with a personal vendetta. Here is the letter and Mehta's response follows it. Below that you will find the response from Charles Ortleb to Mehta.

October 31, 2016

Ajai Singh “Sonny” Mehta
Alfred A. Knopf
1745 Broadway
N.Y., N.Y. 10019

Dear Mr. Mehta:

I have been fortunate enough to locate a copy of galleys of your forthcoming book by David France, How to Survive a Plague. I fear that if you go through with the publication of this book, France's very dishonest work will end up in the same category as James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. As you know, the publisher of that book ended up having to refund money paid by many of the book’s readers. I think that a careful reconsideration of this book will result in you deciding that it is not worthy of the Knopf imprint.

As you may know, France began his association with New York Native as a low-level employee of mine back in the 80s. Frankly, his employment was so unremarkable that I barely remember him. A lot was going on then and he was not a part of the vital working of my newspaper. My jaw dropped when he was promoting his documentary four years ago and I read in a December 12, 2012, New York Times interview: “In 1982, he had his first byline as a journalist, writing about AIDS for The Gay Community News. A year later, he joined The New York Native, another newspaper aimed at the gay community, as its news editor. ‘I edited Randy Shilts,’ he said. ‘I typeset Larry Kramer. You don’t edit Larry Kramer.’” Hired as news editor? That is simply not true. Edited Randy Shilts? Huh? That is an overstatement at best. And I was amazed when he said he had typeset Larry Kramer because "you don't edit Larry Kramer." Yes, you don't edit Larry Kramer because that was never his job, except perhaps in his imagination. I wondered if France is some kind of grandiose pathological liar. He needs to pretend he was an important person at New York Native? What’s wrong with him? It was a really dumb unnecessary lie to tell and I wondered what was up. In an age when people like Brian Williams have career setbacks for this kind of lying, I wondered why France would take such a silly risk. Was France headed for the Wikipedia entry on journalistic scandals that includes people like Stephen Glass and Jonah Lehrer?

Knopf is apparently promoting France’s book as “a classic in the history of AIDS.” You seem to believe that you are about to publish a sequel to Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played On. I think Randy would be rolling over in his grave. I had my differences with him but he was in no way a chronic liar like France. (Ironically, France even misquotes the editor of Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played On.)

In the summer of 2013, I received word from one of my former employees that France was attempting to interview many of the people who had worked for me at New York Native. Not only editors and writers, but even business people and ad salespeople. Based on his interactions with that former employee, both I and that former employee had a sense of what he was really trying to do. The pattern became clearer as he approached other employees in an often rather oily, flattering matter. He would begin his interviews under the pretext of wanting to get their stories about the epidemic and their work at New York Native, but inevitably the real purpose of the interviews and the vendetta directed at me came out. One employee who distrusted him refused to answer his emails. Another only answered a handful of questions by email. Others generously gave of their time and now are not so happy they did so. Had they understood fully what the twisted France agenda was, I don’t think they would have been willing to cooperate. Even though they seemed to have been used by France for purposes of gathering usable anecdotes (mostly cherry-picked and distorted) about me, they themselves were also unfairly portrayed in brief anecdotes that failed to tell the world the vital role they played in my organization.

After ridiculously portraying our office as a cockamamie place of “bitchy infighting,” (page 122) France diminishes Tom Steele, someone who was virtually my editorial right hand, by telling a story (clearly intended to be iconic): “When tempers crested dangerously, Tom Steele, who oversaw our sister magazine, Christopher Street, played the role of peacemaker, walking through the office with colorful paper crowns to bestow upon the Evil Queens of the moment. A crinkled coronet could defuse the dankest turpitudes.” (“Dankest turpitudes”?) He turns both Steele and our former business manager, who helped keep us going for years into deluded “yes-men” who were suckers for my “obsessions” and “neuroses” (his words). These are deliberate malicious misrepresentations of smart, serious, dedicated people with integrity who, during very dark times, helped New York Native earn its place in history. And unlike what France posits in his book, Michael Denneny, who played a major role in helping me start my publishing company, has never said that he regretted the way he marketed Randy Shilts’s book at St. Martin’s. I feel bad that other people were the collateral damage in his rampage against me. France’s creepy treatment of these people are tip-offs that France is a man in want of a conscience.

From the moment France introduces me (page 60) in the insinuating description (“blond-haired and lithe” with a “low-level fear of dying”) it is obvious that his agenda is to present me as someone who ran the newspaper by his daily bizarre whim and was some kind of silly impressionable presence with no real moral or intellectual compass. By the time this young man walked into our office I had already established myself as the first serious gay literary publisher with an eye for major literary and intellectual talent, and the first publisher and editor-in-chief of any newspaper in the world to realize that AIDS would be a major story and made it the central issue in our newspaper. A number of reporters covered the AIDS epidemic for New York Native, but I worked with them no less closely and intensely than editors like Ben Bradlee and Don Hewitt. My determination to make New York Native the paper of record and conscience of the epidemic was rewarded by David Black writing in Rolling Stone in 1985 that “The gay press—with the exception of the New York Native, which deserves a Pulitzer Prize for its comprehensive coverage [of AIDS ]—hasn’t been much better than the straight press.” Randy Shilts wrote in And The Band Played On, “Because of the extraordinary reporting of the New York Native, the city’s gay community had been exposed to far more information about AIDS than San Francisco in 1981 and 1982.”

The person that David does his hatchet job on in his book is not the person described in Rolling Stone in 1989 (four years after France mercifully left us). Katie Leishman wrote, “It is undeniable that many major AIDS stories were Ortleb’s months before mainstream journalists took them up. Behind the scenes he exercises an enormous unacknowledged influence on the coverage of the medical story of the century.” (Not bad for a lithe blond). She quotes the editor of one AIDS medical journal as saying “He is regarded as a major AIDS player. They may joke about the Native in public, but when Chuck Ortleb asks for something, they hop.” Such was the power of the cartoon character portrayed in Frances vendetta-riddled book. By manipulating and distorting information (when not making it up) France tries to turn a publisher and editor-in-chief who wanted his readers to know every last detail about what was happening in the epidemic into someone who “put his readers in grave danger.” (page 68). Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am aware that after France used my newspaper as a stepping stone to the rest of his career he wrote a few books and seems to have had some moderate success. I never really thought much of him as a writer while he was with us for something less than two years, so I didn't pay much attention to his work in the eleven years we remained in business following his departure. In January, 1997, I was reminded of his existence when I was told he had given a party to celebrate the demise of my paper shortly after we went out of business and he actually invited some of my staff. I was quite surprised. I thought that celebrating the death of a newspaper was rather odd. It put him in bed basically with the activist group ACT UP, who had proudly voted for a boycott of my newspaper. (Subsequent to the boycott, piles of our newspapers often mysteriously disappeared from bars and other locations where they were made available to the gay community.) I wondered if David was a card-carrying member of ACT UP or just a passionate fellow traveler. I remember when I heard about the party, I thought "Wow, he really hated us. Who knew?"

Now that I have seen the deeply flawed and fraudulent book he has stuck you with, everything about France is clear.

As luck would have it, shortly before I received the galleys for his book, I was working on material for a forthcoming book on the political philosophy of epidemiology and science and I was exploring the idea that science itself can become sociopathic. In the process I had become familiar with the nature of sociopaths. Like many I may have had a passing familiarity with the topic in the past, but as I read two rather trenchant books on the malady ( Martha Stout’s The Sociopath Next Door and M.E. Thomas’s Confessions of a Sociopath), I became better informed about what a clinical sociopath is and it became obvious what France’s issues are.

As I noted, David was a fairly unremarkable employee. After coming on basically as a typesetter he started appearing as a "contributing writer" which was a title we gave to anyone at our little publication, including typists. If we’d had a janitor in those days at our newspaper-run-on-a-shoestring, he would have probably been rewarded with some impressive-sounding title on the masthead. That's how little newspapers work. We did not, however, hand him the title of “news editor” when he began working for us.

At the time of his employment at the Native, France must have been in his twenties. I was in my thirties. I had already become a major figure in the gay community after founding Christopher Street, the world’s first serious gay literary magazine. I took a leadership role second to none in raising awareness about the epidemic and had to fight many in my own community in the process. Despite the inaccurate impression France gives on page 68, from the very beginning my editorial commitment to covering and getting to the bottom of the truth about the epidemic was not particularly good for business. Even though advertisers and ad salespeople complained, it was just the right thing to do, driven by a concern for the community and society in general. The impression France tries to give is that my motivations were personal and selfish because that fits in with his pre-ordained hostile narrative.

While running two publications, I also oversaw the stories about the epidemic. I was determined to make the epidemic the New York Native signature story. I experienced it as a serious obligation that had fallen into my lap. I spent a good portion of the day on the phone with government scientists, academic scientists, gay community leaders and major figures in the media. I think that there are a few people still alive from that period who will testify to the fact that I was a dynamic leader at my company. I was also a creative person who wrote poetry and lyrics when I had time. And thanks to a sense of humor that many people are familiar with, I wrote many of the cartoons which appeared in Christopher Street. I recount all of this because I think it helps explain France’s deep-seated problems.

The best explanation for France’s pathological dishonesty, and his treatment of me, is that, unbeknownst to me and my colleagues, the vaguely insipid and humorless young man who I don’t remember very well from that period, must have been what is called a “covetous sociopath.” His book seems to be the fulfillment of a thirty-three year old dream of doing to me what covetous sociopaths do to their targets while their targets often don’t have a clue that they are in the crosshairs of a sociopath.

Martha Stout describes a “covetous sociopath” in her book The Sociopath Next Door:

Since it is simply not possible to steal and have for oneself the most valuable “possessions” of another person−beauty, intelligence, success, a strong character−the covetous sociopath settles for besmirching or damaging enviable qualities in others so that they will not have them, either, or at least not be able to enjoy them so much . . . . The covetous sociopath thinks that life has cheated [him] somehow, has not given [him] nearly the same bounty as other people, and so [he] must even the existential score by robbing people, by secretly causing destruction in other lives. [He] believes he has been slighted by nature, circumstances, and destiny and that diminishing other people is [his] only means of being powerful. Retribution, usually against people who have no idea that they have been targeted, is the most important activity in the covetous sociopath’s life, [his] highest priority.

Were I a religious person I would get down on my knees to thank God that I happened to have been studying sociopathology when I acquired the France galleys. Otherwise I might not have fully understood that I had been targeted by his vengeful demons and why.

In his book, France talks about being envious of his roommate’s creativity. I think the word “envy” is a keyhole into France’s nature and problems. He also mentions being in reparative therapy for his homosexuality. That was the wrong issue for him to be dealing with. He needs reparative therapy for his pathological lying and the delusional grandiosity that leads him to think he was of any serious importance at the New York Native.  Unfortunately, there seems to be no reparative therapy for sociopathology.

I believe that a serious and honest appraisal of the New York Native would conclude that is was one of the most important newspapers in the 20th century. It must gall a covetous sociopath like France that he was in no way part of that greatness. The New York Native was great despite France's achievement-challenged presence for less than two years.

One gets the impression from France’s book that, like many sociopaths, a kind of laziness kicked in and rather than do a detailed analysis of what happened at the New York Native after he left in 1985, he chooses to throw a bunch of groundless insults up against a wall in hopes that something will stick. In one of his farewell paragraphs about the New York Native he writes, “Chuck Ortleb’s paper had sunk even deeper into paranoid convolution in recent years, infused with his now solid conviction that HIV and AIDS were a twisted hoax concocted to sell AZT and enrich Big Pharma, while the real culprit stalking the community was, depending on the week, either African swine fever virus, untreated syphilis, a brand-new herpes virus,  mysterious “virus-like” particle recently discovered by a young Army researcher, or some combination of them all.” This libelous mishmash could not be further from the truth. What he calls “my solid conviction” was a conviction invented in his imagination. And his cheap attempt to make it seem like we careened from one absurdity to another reflects either his failure to read the paper (which I strongly suspect) or a deliberate lie (which is probably also the case). Supposedly, France made his ACT UP movie with footage housed at the New York Public Library. It’s a shame he didn’t stop by whatever room in the library that houses New York Native on microfilm, because he clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about. And clearly doesn’t want to.

As for the sleazy drive-by charge of paranoia, this is business as usual for sociopaths who are famous for trying to gaslight their victims. The sociopaths are the good sane ones in the equation, and their targeted victims are out to lunch. France’s timing with this nefarious project could not be worse. Thanks to Art of the Deal co-author Tony Schwartz’s warnings about Donald Trump, a big chunk of our country now is aware that this is how sociopaths operate. (Memo to any member of the Knopf staff who suddenly experiences a wave of fear that France is a fraud. You are not being paranoid.) Thanks to writers like Martha Stout more and more people know that sociopaths exist on a wide spectrum of failure and success. They can run hedge funds, run for president or even snooker a major publisher into thinking that they are honest journalists and historians.

France doesn’t want you or his readers to know that the final years of New York Native were of historic importance thanks to the persistent and detailed reporting of John Lauritsen, Neenyah Ostrom and others. In addition to covering the shoddy research used to rush approval of AZT, incidents of scientific malfeasance at the CDC, we were second to no other news organization in detailing the fraudulent nature of the “science” coming out of the laboratory of Robert Gallo. We were also the first newspaper to cover the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome epidemic on a regular basis. We even published three books on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Just as I decided to make New York Native the paper of record on AIDS, I made it the Native’s business to be the paper of record on the AIDS-related virus called HHV-6 and the AIDS-related pandemic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I thought it was painfully obvious that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and AIDS were intertwined and intimately linked to the HHV-6 and every day it is looking more and more like we were on the money. To call our groundbreaking reporting on those issues an expression of “paranoid convolution” is an outrageous libel not worthy of a serious historian or journalist. Not only were these major stories when we reported on them, but they have all been vindicated by developments that occurred after we went out of business.

On page 368, France writes glowingly about the historic moment that ACT UP member Peter Staley stood up at a one of the group's meetings, and after a litany of complaints about the New York Native, called for a formal boycott of the newspaper, a move that threatened to cut the gay community off from all critical, investigative and independent reporting on the AIDS epidemic that didn't parrot the AIDS establishment or ACT UP party line. France notes that Staley found my editorials "befuddling." France, if he had read them, would not have found them "befuddling" in the least. They were written so that even people who are not the brightest bulbs, like France and Staley, could understand them. Later in the book, on page 514, France writes, "Staley fell unexpectedly into the thrall of methamphetamine." I plead guilty to not writing editorials that would be crystal clear (no pun intended) to the kind of people who either "fell unexpectedly," or even "expectedly" into the "thrall of methamphetamine."

On January 23, 2014, I received a rather disingenuous email from France:
I hope this note finds you and Francis well. It has been such a very long time since we have spoken, my apologies, but I have kept up with your news from time to time through Patrick or Michael Denneny or Tom, who I had the pleasure of visiting recently. 
I’m writing to see if your schedule allows for a phone call in the coming week. I made a documentary on a little corner of AIDS activism, called How to Survive a Plague, and am following up with a book (Knopf) on the broader response of the community in New York to the crisis. I spoke with Michael yesterday about my interest in reporting on the signal role the Native played. He believed you would be very interested in helping me remember those years, and told me in fact you are poring through much of that material for your own book. I would have reached out earlier, but it was only from him I got your contact data. 

Might I be able to borrow you for about an hour, at your convenience? 

Knowing what I was dealing with, I had no intention in helping a sycophantic shyster “remember those years.” This is what is known as handing a sociopath an axe, and I, of course did not comply. What is puzzling about this email is that it kind of gives the lie to the two sentences he uses to dispose of me in his book. On page 368 he writes “Chuck Ortleb, one of the first and most pivotal activists in the plague, was now a tarnished footnote. It was the sad denouement of a brilliant man. What AIDS did to others virally it did to him intellectually. Though he continued in business for many more years, the Native only attracted the tiniest readership. I never saw Ortleb again after that. Few of us did.” On page 514 he gives his final sad bon voyage, “Chuck Ortleb, who had taken the Native into battle and then turned it against phantoms, left the public stage altogether.” Really?

Were readers to mistakenly trust France, they would think I was in the Bermuda Triangle with other “brilliant” publishers gone bad. If the people who are supposedly in touch with me had been asked what I have been up to, (or if France had access to something called Google) he would have been able to inform his readers that a year after we went out of business, Rubicon Media published Iron Peter, a work of satire about the people like David France, which one writer called “The Animal Farm of AIDS.” The next year Rubicon Media published The Last Lovers on Earth, a collection of stories about the political and cultural state of a gay community bamboozled by people like David France. And that was followed by a novella called The Closing Argument which is really the first work of fiction in history to take on the racial politics of the AIDS epidemic. All of these books are available on Amazon. In 2005 I co-directed a feature-length movie based on three of my stories also called The Last Lovers on Earth. And it is also available for viewing on Amazon. Most people have found the comedy about the AIDS establishment and AIDS activists to be hilarious. But it would no doubt befuddle France.

If that is not enough public stage activity, since 2005 I have been overseeing a online news site called “HHV-6 University” which has continued the work begun at New York Native on the overlooked scientific connections between HHV-6, AIDS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and numerous other emerging public health problems. None of these were “phantoms” when they were covered in depth at New York Native. And they are dramatically less so now. (Don’t take my word for it, have an intern check all this out for you.) I have never stopped being on the cutting edge of the biggest medical and scientific story of our time. But all of this post-denouement activity threatens the sociopathic narrative of a man who used Knopf to go postal on his former boss.

Sensitive readers may notice something very odd about France’s writing that they can't quite put their finger on. They will be picking up on what could be called "sociopathic prose," which is a term coined to reflect a peculiarity Martha Stout notes about sociopaths, namely "they know the words but not the music." "Dysfunctional affect-language interactions" is a diagnostically more sophisticated expression for this which can be found in a paper by Blair et al. in Biological Psychology (August 2006). In weird passages in his book, like when he has my face appearing in the dreams of a man in bed with a fever (page 117) or when he writes a howler like he found his "natural place on the androgyny quadrant of the gender matrix," or that he felt he was "swelling toward confrontations," or that my editorials were "rich with professions of doom and rage," one senses something more disturbing than just a predictable hack. He knows how to push the buttons of what he must assume is a politically correct readership. And given that AIDS is an emotionally loaded subject which is supposed to make all heads bow in unison, he knows how to put on a good show of empathy with the sob sister cant of a professional fake. Some of his writing seems to have wandered in covered in "the dankest turpitudes" from novels (or something) written in another century. People who fall for this stuff will positively swoon when on page 509 a man gives France "the kiss that Pericles gave Aspasia to awaken the Golden Age."  But I could care less about the goofiness of a liar's prose. It is the dishonesty of this poseur that matters here.

At some point I read that France’s book had been optioned as an ABC miniseries. It would be a very serious mistake for ABC or anyone else to build a miniseries around such a fraudulent mess. I find it especially an appalling prospect that one of the main characters in a filmed version of this tissue of lies would be me. I do think there is a major film that could be made of the book but the focus should be on the character of France. It would make for very dramatic fare if the arc of the story involved a young sociopathic journalist who began his career at a gay newspaper, succeeded in moving forward surreptitiously in the media world and achieving some success without anyone realizing how dishonest he was and that he was driven by the disconcerting motivations of a sociopath. It could show how the gay community, which can be kind, forgiving and a little na├»ve, is often blind to the sociopaths in its midst. In the final section of the movie he could fool the top publisher in New York into publishing his hatchet job on his former employer under the pretext that he is writing a major work of history and journalism. In the end, because his former employer refuses to be victimized by him, the sociopath is exposed and lands in the place sociopaths (like Trump) usually end up: the dustbin of history. The movie might be called “The Talented Mr. France.”

At the time I learned about France’s vendetta-driven trail of interviews for his book,
I was myself working on a multi-volume history of the AIDS epidemic. A major section of it was to be the history of New York Native. When I realized what he was up to, I decided to prepare the history of New York Native for publication on the same day as France’s book. When I learned your book would be out on November 29, I decided to make that the publication date of my book, Truth to Power: New York Native 1980-1997. My book will act as an antidote to France’s egregiously dishonest account of the New York Native. In no way should an unreliable “journalist” who has defrauded you into publishing him be allowed to have the last word on such a seminal newspaper that spoke truth to power.

As you ponder what to do about France’s book, I would like to make a constructive suggestion. Before you take the risk of having a book like Frey’s A Million Little Pieces on your hands and end up having to give refunds to people who purchase the book, consider the Rolling Stone solution. As you know Rolling Stone published a story about a rape at the University of Virginia in November 2014, and as the editor of Rolling Stone wrote “the truth of the story became a national controversy.” The editor, in trying to figure out what went wrong, asked the Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism to put together a team to “investigate any lapses in reporting, editing and fact-checking of the story.” I would respectfully suggest that you do the same before you take the great risk of hurting Knopf’s reputation. I suggest you ask the Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism to form another committee to vet France’s book to determine the following:

1.     His sources and methods. (Did he tape all his interviews?)
2.     The vetting process at Knopf.
3.     How was the book fact-checked? Was anything even checked?
4.     Was Knopf aware that France had serious psychological issues with his former employer that might not make him the most objective historian of New York Native, its publisher and employees?
5.     Did France lie to his editor and publisher during the writing of this book?

I think that if you did such an investigation it would show the world that Knopf still has outstanding editorial standards and is unwilling to carry the water for egregiously dishonest authors.

Having the Columbia School of Journalism look at France’s book might be a historic moment in journalism. If they confirm the general dishonesty in his book about New York Native, it might serve as an object lesson in what happens when a sociopath slips under the radar into the world of journalism. By the way, according to one study, it turns out that journalism is one of the ten top professions that sociopaths are drawn to. One day France’s book might serve as a major textbook in the study of socipathology’s effect on journalism. France may yet ultimately achieve his goal of having a major mark on history.

You may have seen the recent movie Denial about the David Irving libel lawsuit against the writer who called him a holocaust denialist. As you may recall, in the decision against him the presiding judge said that Irving “for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence.” I am contending that France for both psychological and ideological reasons has “persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence.”

I know that for many publishers, given the financial issues involved in a book like this, there would be an inclination to look the other way or even try to defend the indefensible. But I am hoping that in order to protect the integrity of the Knopf name, you and your colleagues will do the right thing.

Sincerely Yours,

Charles Ortleb
Former Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
Christopher Street and New York Native

cc:      Steve Coll    
Pamela Paul
Seymour Hersh
Jann Wenner
Calvin Reid
David Remnick
Malcolm Gladwell
Hilton Als
Darryl Pinckney
Fran Lebowitz
Roz Chast
Christopher Bram
Andrew Holleran
Stephen Holden
Colin Norman
Will Schwalbe
Jeffrey Seroy
Claiborne Smith
Charles McGrath
Dwight Garner
Michiko Kakutani
Judith Thurman
Robert Silvers
Jonathan Galassi

The Response from Sonny Mehta 

Dear Mr. Ortleb,

Thank you for writing. Almost everything surrounding the issue of AIDS is complicated and controversial, and differences of opinion and interpretation will arise, and your letter only confirms that. It’s clear how deeply felt your views are. Obviously, though, your book has given you a chance to express those views and opinions at length for public consumption, which is as it should be.


Sonny Mehta

Chairman and Editor-in-Chief

Alfred A. Knopf

The Response to Sonny Mehta

Dear Mr. Mehta,

Thank you for responding to my letter about David France's book, How to Survive a Plague. Given that you are one of the smartest men on the planet, I doubt that you will be surprised that I found your response to be pro forma. It basically sounds like it was written from the heart of an attorney. I stand by what I wrote in my letter. David France's book is essentially a vendetta-driven character assassination of me and my newspaper, New York Native. I have little doubt that honest and diligent historians of AIDS and journalism will ultimately judge France to be a classic covetous sociopath and will put him in the same category as David Irving, the man who also distorted history.

The publication of How to Survive a Plague raises serious questions about the state of ethics and publishing standards at Knopf. I hope that there is a nagging voice in your conscience that will ultimately motivate you to refund the price of How to Survive a Plague to anyone who was hoodwinked into purchasing France's massive fraud. This is not just about the competition between my book, Truth to Power [Now called The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic Cover-up], and his. One of these books is a tissue of lies. And it is not mine.


Charles L. Ortleb

If you care about the real history of the New York Native, HHV-6 and the AIDS/CFS epidemic, read The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic Cover-up.

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