Sunday, February 04, 2007

Goldwater Case

Sued by Barry Goldwater

The lawyer, Stanley S. Arkin, for the editor who procured the infamous O.J. Simpson book, Judith Regan, was my lawyer in the Goldwater case. Goldwater had sued Ralph Ginzburg, Fact magazine, and me for libel.

Harris Steinberg was Ralph's lawyer. Urbane, smart. In his summation to the jury, he threw two cents down. "I don't want you to award Mr. Goldwater two cents!" Hoping (he told us) that they would award him two cents. The magazine had run a cartoon of Goldwater looking at his private parts, reflecting the article's assertion that he had doubts about his masculinity. Steinberg interpreted this as: was Goldwater circumcized or not? An interpretation that startled ME.

During my deposition, I said that Time, Newsweek, and possibly US News had run statements that Goldwater had had a nervous breakdown. Goldwater's laqwyer said to me, you know that that is false, don't you? I stuck to my guns.

Rosemary Latimore--bless Rosemary, the saintly Rosemary, the unfailing Rosemary--the next day came in with citations from Time, Newsweek, and US News that Goldwater had had nervous breakdowns.

I passed them along to Steinberg while he was questioning someone. He interrupted his questioning to read those citations into the record.

Later, he said to us, joyfully, that those citations had badly shaken and depressed the Goldwater lawyers.

In my own testimony, I'm told, Goldwater paid special attention when I said that FDR was mentally exhausted at one point, which helped explain why he had made unwise concessions to the Soviet Union at Yalta. And my lawyer told me that someone -- a journalist, I think -- had said, about me, he really knows his onions.

During my testimony, I saw that one juror was asleep. A juror next to him gave me an amused look.

I testified that I had phoned Erik Erikson, the psychoanalyst ("Young Man Luther"), about Goldwater. Erikson had generally agreed with I suggested-- Goldwater was trying to show what a man he was -- but warned me that there were cultural and local influences at work.

The judge in the case--Tyler, appointed by Republicans--said to me, Do you recall this Erikson's middle name?

I interpreted that to mean: You're making up the name, aren't you?

HOMBERGER! I replied angrily.

(How could anyone invent a name like that?)

I was worried about the case--would I have to work for Goldwater the rest of my life? Paying off $2 million? And I felt a little guilty, too. I was working in St. Louis at the time, for a social-sciences magazine published by Washington University.

The trial: Every once in a while, someone said something truthful. As brief and shocking as a lightning flash.

I got Goldwater and Ginzburg to autograph a copy of the magazine--but lent it to a friend, and never saw it again.

The jury awarded Goldwater $75,000 against Ralph and the magazine, and $1 against all three of us. Arkin paid my 0.33 cents.

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