Emailed from Liam Scheff to writers/editors Village Voice – Retraction! Village Voice Compounds NY Times “Errors.” 4/4/09
To the Editor, Writers, Village Voice,
While your article on the ICC scandal is too riddled with error to fix line by line, there is one demonstrably false statement that you must retract and amend.
Quoting the New York Times 2005 article, which attempted to cover up the ICC scandal, you claimed that the information I provided was done through un-named sources and un-documented research. You then acknowledged that you were interviewing my sources, using the leads that I provided you. Therefore I think you owe your audience some clarification.
Four years ago, the Times wrote a much longer story that laid out, in a skillful and comprehensive way, the origins of the controversy and how it had come to light. (The Voice itself, as far as we can tell, wrote nothing at all.)
“Most of the questions have arisen from a single account of abuse allegations—given by a single writer about people not identified by real names, backed up with no official documentation as supporting proof, and put out on the Internet in early 2004 after the author was unable to get the story published anywhere else,” the Times noted.
Is this true? Did I use only one un-named source? Did I have “no official documentation as supporting proof?” Was I “unable to get the story published anywhere else?”
It must noted that your reporter, Elizabeth Dwoskin, did not ask me a single question about this quote, in order to verify its validity, even though I was clear with her that the Times had attempted to cover up the story. The New York Times, like you and the VERA Institute, also reviewed not a single medical record of any child used in these studies, but make dramatic claims about the success of the trials, again, in the total absence of evidence.
The answer to the questions that weren’t asked are as follows. Please make a printed retraction and correction in your next edition, correspondingly:
“In his first report, “The House that AIDS Built,” Liam Scheff did indeed identify sources by real names, and also allowed one adult source a protective alias (all children and ICC residents were given protective aliases, as in the Village Voice story). The abuse allegations arose from interviews with a parent (Mona, alias) and her two children at the ICC, a former ICC nurse and adoptive parent of children at the ICC (Jackie Herger, real name), the medical director of the ICC (Dr. Katherine Painter, real name), and the three dozen studies listed in the NIH clinical trial database that had been or were being conducted at the ICC. Scheff also entered the ICC, met children there, and verified Mona and the children’s testimony. [I reported this in greater detail in “Orphans on Trial” NY Press 2004].
Scheff chose to publish the story on the web after rejecting several offers that would have required him to edit the very long story for magazine or newspaper format, though he did, almost immediately publish in this format in various journals including GNN, the New York Press and others.
Scheff’s original expose’ was in fact rejected by Village Voice editor Laura Conaway, who told Scheff ‘The biggest bunch of information I get from you has to do with these manufacturer statements about the HIV tests. This makes me wonder whether that’s your true interest here. You seem to be saying there’s no way of even knowing whether the kids are HIV positive. Pardon me, but that bit sounds nuts, quite frankly nuts. And of course the drugs used for HIV are made by large for-profit companies. And of course they have side effects. Those two factors might make a lot of people angry, but they don’t make this a story.‘”
That would be the reality of what happened, versus the New York Times’ cover-up, which you felt obliged to re-quote, and praise, despite the fact that their mind-numbing article mentions not a single side-effect from Black Box drugs given to infants and children, while simultaneously claiming that no children were harmed, and none died, (“[T]here is little evidence that the trials were anything but a medical success” they wrote), without having looked at a single medical record. They certainly did not investigate the story, or they would have discovered at least some of the 200 deaths that are now reported by the VERA Institute.
. . . . . .
A. I didn’t have access “only to the internet.” I took interviews with children who’d been placed in the orphanage because their parents stopped or limited FDA-Black Boxed drugs. I had access to medical files, and, of course, to their parent’s testimonies.
B. People were, in fact, identified by real names, in my first report, and in subsequent reporting. Jackie Herger, (former nurse at ICC and adoptive mother of children from the orphanage), and Dr. Katherine Painter (medical director of ICC) were featured in my first, second and third reports on ICC (”House that Aids Built”, “The ICC Investigation Continues”, “Orphans On Trial”), and then in subsequent reporting as well (”The ICC Interviews – Dr. Katherine Painter”, “Inside Incarnation”).
Mona, a great aunt (and adoptive parent) of two children in the ICC, was provided an alias, as were the children in the story, and I provided her real name, and contact information to The New York Times, which authors Janny Scott and Leslie Kaufman used to interview her.
To make a claim that a story is potentially false because of the use of a single alias, is not defensible. To raise suspicions about the nature of a witness using an alias, is only defensible if the reporter is unwilling to share the identity of that alias. I provided her name and contact information for authors Janny Scott and Leslie Kaufman in 2005, and they used it, interviewed her, and suppressed that information.
C. “No official documentation.” I listed, described and gave detailed analysis to many of the three dozen studies in the National Institutes of Health Clinical Trial database (clinicaltrials.gov), and directed authors Janny Scott and Leslie Kaufman to it, to do their work. I reviewed the Physician’s Desk Reference, and FDA database on the drugs used in the studies at ICC, and gave a detailed listing of the recorded side-effects of the drugs.
D. I reviewed, listed, described and gave analysis to dozens of studies printed in the standard medical journals on the non-standardized tests and the drugs.
E. I was able to enter the physical orphanage itself, record and report my observations of what I saw, and on several children I interacted with, whose stories I followed up with my sources.
All of the above were done before the publication of The House That AIDS Built.
F. I had offers to publish the story in a print magazine, a newspaper and a respected web outlet. The New York Times reporters knew that I had such offers, and instead misconstrued a quote I made about the inability of Left-wing media – specifically the Village Voice, and Democracy Now – to publish or discuss the story.
The New York Times’ reporters had this email from me:
June 30, 2005.
From: Liam Scheff
To: Janny Scott janscott @nytimes.com
Cc: leslie @nytimes.com Subject:
Re: date of first article?
I researched and wrote The House That AIDS Built from June through Nov. 2003, started emailing it out in Dec. 2003.
Had a magazine interested in Nov, but they backed out.
Had an offer to rewrite it and get it out by Aug 2004 in a print mag, but felt speed was more important. Crossed my fingers and sent it out to 50, 60 people. Put it on indymedia in Dec. 2003, the guys at altheal [Altheal.org] put it up for good in January 2004 – I think it says so at the top of the page.
The film company contacted me in late jan or early feb.
Doug Montero from the Post contacted me in Jan or early Feb, I still have his emails.
He interviewed me, then put out the story w/o credit. They put my name in a day later.
The published something a week or so ago, and credited me properly.
Janny, drop me a line, you had some questions for me that I’ve thought about and wanted to answer better.
(She never did get back to me).
I admit that I was careless in this description. I was naive in believing the Times‘ interest was investigating the studies done on the children, and not in libeling me in the press. If I had been aware that the Times‘ intention was a lynching, I would have provided less rope. Here are the details:
The magazine that “backed out” did so only because I didn’t want to shorten it to a ‘friendlier’ magazine-style format. I rejected their offer, feeling the story should survive in its original form, consisting of interviews with the Mona, parent of children at the ICC, Dr. Katherine Painter (the ICC’s medical director), Jackie Herger (pediatric nurse, formerly employee at the ICC, and adoptive parent of two children from the ICC). Also included was a review of the data on HIV testing, a comprehensive chart off the drugs used in ICC trials, and a partial list of pharma-funded studies at the ICC. I retrospect, I might have been too inflexible in dealing with that magazine, and perhaps should have used it as a launching point.
I had other offers of interest, one from a web-investigation journal that focused on the medical industry, but the editor there seemed intent on re-branding the story under his name, and I thought I’d better avoid that conflict and drama; finally, there was a small paper in Boston that expressed interest, but the story belongs to New York, and I felt the web was, in that sense, was a better place for it at that point.
It is true that “The House that AIDS Built” was rejected out-of-hand by Village Voice editor Laura Conaway in 2003. She wrote:
From: Conaway, Laura
Sent: Friday, December 19, 2003 9:05 AM
To: ‘Liam Scheff’
Subject: RE: Journalist with very hot story – pharmaceutical abuse in NY children’s home
The biggest bunch of information I get from you has to do with these manufacturer statements about the HIV tests. This makes me wonder whether that’s your true interest here. You seem to be saying there’s no way of even knowing whether the kids are HIV positive. Pardon me, but that bit sounds nuts, quite frankly nuts.
And of course the drugs used for HIV are made by large for-profit companies. And of course they have side effects. Those two factors might make a lot of people angry, but they don’t make this a story.
At least some things remain consistent over time: Then and now, the Village Voice will not bother itself (or its readers) to expose any wrongdoing in the AIDS industry.
On the other hand, I felt confident in the research, my sources, interviews and the clinical trial data, and hoped that the story would be investigated and followed up by other investigators, following the leads I provided. The AP and New York Post did just that. I quickly followed with ‘magazine-style’ print editions, as well as longer, data-heavy investigative pieces (“The ICC Investigation Continues”)
Let me now re-state that I explained very clearly to your reporter that I had been openly libeled by the New York Times. I did, in fact send her to my webpage where this information, as well as data on the drug studies, drugs, and HIV tests are readily available. She apparently did not bother herself with this chore.
G. Following the publication of “House,” in late 2004, through 2005, I conducted face-to-face interviews with nurses and child-care workers who worked at the orphanage, and cared for the children, and reported on their daily drugging, and the vomiting and diarrhea, rashes and deformities, that occurred as the known and predictable result of the drugs; they also reported in great detail on the deaths that occurred – deaths that were very strongly tied to commencement of drugs or of certain drug regimens, or enforcement via stomach tube of new drugs, including Thalidomide.
H. At the same time, I conducted further interviews with adolescents who’d been residents at the orphanage, and who had been held and drugged there against their will. Some of these children had developed serious illnesses, including cancer, after a childhoods spent on AZT, and its analogues, drugs which are known carcinogens.
I. This was reported in the New York Press two weeks after the New York Times’ story was released (”Inside Incarnation,” NY Press, July/Aug 2005). Authors Janny Scott and Leslie Kaufman never did any follow-up, however, after it was revealed that the New York Times’ assertions couldn’t possibly have been true.
I look forward to your correction, as well as your further in-depth investigation of the ‘near-perfect’ HIV test technology, which you defended without quoting a source or citing a single medical or FDA-mandated manufacturer description on the build and limitations of said test. I will also look forward to your expose’ of AIDS drugs, which I’m sure will feature many glowing reviews from the people who helped the drugs earn their FDA Black Box labels.