Frederick J. Graboske, who was in charge of the Nixon tapes at the National Archives when Kutler was researching his book, accused Kutler of deliberately mixing up two tapes, but there was no evidence in the article to back that up.
Cohen [the reporter] said she made sure that Kutler’s denial got on the front page, and she quoted another scholar who has worked with the Nixon tapes saying that any mistakes were honest and predictable. Cohen, who listened to the tapes and studied the transcripts, said she thought Graboske was a “completely straight, honest broker.”
I asked Graboske how he was certain Kutler mixed the two tapes on purpose. To have done it, he said, “would have been the height of sloppiness, and Stanley is a sloppy researcher or he did it deliberately.” That is a different answer than he gave Cohen. If plain error was a possibility, I do not think The Times should have printed the charge without strong evidence. Journalistic balance, giving both sides, did not produce fairness here.
Go back to the original story for a moment. Here was Kutler explaining his research process:
“Are you aware under what conditions I worked in 1996?” he said by telephone from Mexico. “It’s only because of my lawsuit that you or anybody else can pick up a tape. In those days, I could not leave the archives with that material. I used state-of-the-lost-art equipment. I brought in a team of court reporters to help me with the first drafts.
You’d think the guy in charge of the tapes at the time would know this, wouldn’t you? This is character assassination, pure and simple. Graboske knew better when he made those charges, and that would explain why he’s backpedaling now.
Unfortunately for my friend Stan, this might be the closest thing to an apology he gets. He deserves more.