September 14, 2000
Mr. Tim Russert
c/o NBC Television
Re: Your reference to Jonathan Pollard during Clinton/Lazio Debate September 13, 2000
Dear Mr. Russert:
We are attorneys for Jonathan Pollard.
We take strong issue with a statement you made on September 13, 2000 during the debate between Mrs. Clinton and Congressman Lazio. By way of introduction to a question about the candidates' positions on clemency for Mr. Pollard, you stated that Mr. Pollard had been "sentenced to life for espionage and treason."
In fact, Mr. Pollard has never been charged with or convicted of treason. He was charged with, and pled guilty to, conspiracy to commit espionage. The distinction is significant. Treason entails aiding an enemy of the United States. Mr. Pollard was charged with and pled guilty to, conspiracy to deliver classified information to the State of Israel, an ally of the United States. He has never aided any enemy of the United States.
I enclose a copy of the indictment filed against Mr. Pollard by the United States government. It does not charge him with treason, or with intending to harm the United States. Your reference to treason is totally unfounded.
There is no excuse for such sloppy journalism. The question had plainly been prepared in advance of the debate, and should have been fact-checked for accuracy.
While we would expect a competent journalist to be accurate under any circumstance, we are especially appalled that your error occurred during a very important debate which was undoubtedly seen by a large number of viewers. Your misstatement unfortunately reinforced a popular misperception about Mr. Pollard.
Mr. Pollard's sentencing proceeding was infected with falsehood and distortion, as well as with other fundamental defects, for which we will soon be seeking redress in the United States District Court. Because fact and not fiction, and truth and not distortion are essential to correcting the injustice to Mr. Pollard, your deviation from the truth last night was particularly troubling.
We demand that you issue a public apology and a retraction of the accusation of treason.
Very truly yours,
cc: Mrs. Hillary Clinton
The New York Times