(Senate - September 30, 1996)

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[Pages S12007-S12008]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                         DR. CHRISTINA JEFFREY

 Mr. NUNN. Mr. President, I have been contacted by my 
constituent, Dr. Christina Jeffrey of Kennesaw, GA, who was formerly 
the historian for the other body.
  Dr. Jeffrey has asked that I place in the Record materials which 
would help correct unfounded media reports about her professional 
reputation. I am pleased to do this for Dr. Jeffrey because I have long 
noted the fact that the media is sometimes quick to report the 
negative, but slow to report corrections.
  I know of Dr. Jeffrey from her service as a volunteer with other 
academicians on my nonpolitical advisory board which selects young men 
and women to serve as interns in my Senate offices. Based on what I 
know regarding her reputation among her colleagues who know her best, 
Dr. Jeffrey is a person of integrity with a genuine interest in public 
service as well as higher education.
  It is sad that in this city, both elected officials and staff are 
often subjected to accusations and actions that go far beyond the 
bounds of fair play. I hope the following material helps clarify the 
facts involving Dr. Jeffrey's professional reputation.
  The material follows:

                                      Department of Education,

                                   Washington, DC, March 22, 1989.
     Hon. Richard Shelby,
     U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Shelby: Your letter to Secretary Cavazos 
     concerning Dr. Christina Price has been forwarded to me for 
       Dr. Price's concern is understandable. She was generous in 
     acting as a reviewer for the National Diffusion Network (NDN) 
     on the application for funding of a curriculum entitled 
     ``Facing History and Ourselves.'' Denial of that funding 
     application has created an extended controversy, and 
     disclosure of her comments in the media has created a great 
     deal of misunderstanding about both the program and Dr. 
     Price's own views.
       I believe Dr. Price was acting in good faith, and was 
     delivering honest opinions, when she reviewed ``Facing 
     History.'' She argues that here comments were written in a 
     kind of academic shorthand, not for public consumption, and 
     that in no way did she intend to convey an attitude of racism 
     or anti-Semitism. We accept her contention. And to the extent 
     that any Department of Education official has characterized 
     Dr. Price herself as racist or anti-Semitic, we do indeed 
       However, it is also true that some of Dr. Price's review 
     comments were ambiguously phrased, and that portions lifted 
     out of context and reprinted in the media could lead an 
     objective reader to conclude that she favored presenting the 
     Nazi or KKK point of view in the interests of ``balance or 
     objectivity.'' While the best education about any historical 
     issue requires an understanding of the motivations of all 
     parties, the teaching of the Holocaust demands clear 
     delineation between good and evil. To the extent that outside 
     observers believed Dr. Price to be advocating a morally 
     neutral approach to the teaching of the Holocaust--and to the 
     extent that they further believed this represented the 
     position of the Department of Education--it is not surprising 
     that they would raise strenuous objections.
       It should also be noted that under the Freedom of 
     Information Act, the Department of Education was required to 
     release a list of reviewers, and the evaluations of the 
     projects submitted by them, without identifying which 
     reviewers made which comments. We complied with FOIA 
     requirements in supplying this information. Dr. Price was 
     informed of this policy in a letter from Dr. Shirley Curry, 
     director of the Recognition Division, on November 19, 1986. 
     It read in part: ``Your review of applications for grants 
     becomes part of the official government record and will be a 
     determining factor in choosing who will be funded. If 
     requested, applicants will be given copies of the reviewers' 
     comments. However, the names of the reviewers will be removed 
     from the review instruments before being sent out. ''
       The most difficult aspect of this episode is that I am sure 
     Dr. Price feels as strongly about appropriate teaching of the 
     Holocaust as we do (and for that matter, as strongly as those 
     who created the ``Facing History'' curriculum). She did what 
     was asked in good faith. Unfortunately, what she wrote left 
     room for misinterpretation.
       In the event that this controversy continues, you may rest 
     assured that I will do everything possible to ensure that no 
     further confusion arises, and that no one in this Department 
     casts aspersions on the character of Dr. Price.
       Thank you for your interest in this matter. Since you wrote 
     on behalf of Dr. Price, we trust you will be providing her 
     with a copy of this response.
                                                   Patricia Hines,
     Assistant Secretary.

                                              Catholic League,

                                 New York, NY, September 26, 1996.
     Hon. Sam Nunn,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Nunn: As president of the nation's largest 
     Catholic civil rights organization, I am delighted to write a 
     letter of support for Dr. Christina Jeffrey. Dr. Jeffrey, as 
     the public knows, was terminated as House historian on the 
     grounds that she promoted the inclusion of the Nazi 
     perspective in Holocaust curriculum.
       What the public does not generally know is that Dr. Jeffrey 
     is a determined anti-Nazi scholar whose reputation has been 
     unfairly maligned by uninformed ideologues. It was a disgrace 
     that she was terminated in the first place, and it is doubly 
     disgraceful that her reputation remains unfairly tarnished. 
     That is why I am appealing to you to clear her name by 
     submitting this letter, and others like it, into the 
     Congressional Record.
       I have spent most of my life as a college professor, and, 
     having taught Political Sociology, I know that it is 
     important for students to understand the mind-set of those 
     who sponsor genocide. Yes, in the hands of a Nazi 
     sympathizer, such a pedagogical approach could be misused to 
     engender empathy for terrorists. The same is true of 
     virtually any topic of an incendiary nature. But when taught 
     by someone with the impeccable moral credentials of a Dr. 
     Jeffrey, such an orientation can yield very positive results, 
     both scholarly and morally. After all, if the goal is to stop 
     another Holocaust from ever happening again, it is critical 
     that everyone know the psychology and social soil in which 
     genocidal ambitions flourish.
       Dr. Jeffrey represents the very best of her Catholic 
     training: she wants to help craft a world where injustice 
     does not prevail. It is a travesty that injustice has been 
     visited upon her, even if those who perpetrated it remain 
     sadly ignorant of her character, intentions and effects.
                                               William A. Donohue,

         Georgia Conference, American Association of University 
                                 Carrollton, GA, October 24, 1995.
     Re Christina Jeffrey.

     To: Whom it May Concern.
     From: Don Wagner.
       The national office of the American Association of 
     University Professors, in response to a request from the 
     Georgia Conference-AAUP, wrote to Secretary of Education 
     Richard Riley to protest the treatment which Dr. Christina 
     Jeffrey received from the Department of Education, i.e., the 
     release of her name without her knowledge or permission in 
     conjunction with a grant review she did for the Department in 
     1986. This treatment led ultimately to her being fired as 
     House historian by House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The peer 
     review process is designated to be confidential and the 
     Department, when it breaches that promised confidentiality, 
     damages the whole system, and can, as we saw in Dr. Jeffrey's 
     case, unfairly harm the individuals involved. The Department 
     of Education responded to our inquiry positively and shares 
     our concerns about confidentiality and Dr. Jeffrey's case.

                             National Association of Scholars,

                                  Princeton, NJ, October 31, 1995.
       The National Association of Scholars is pleased to endorse 
     the public vindication of Professor Christina Jeffrey, to 
     whom we extend every good wish for the rehabilitation of her 
     career. Now that a fair reading of the evidence has finally 
     been rendered, no one could possibly doubt her complete 
     professional integrity and basic human decency. Clearly, she 
     is no Nazi sympathizer or crank racist, and it is regrettable 
     that her reputation has had to endure such calumny.
       It is just as clear, however, that this entire incident 
     should never have occurred. When in 1986 Professor Jeffrey 
     was invited by the US Department of Education to evaluate

[[Page S12008]]

     grant proposals for various projects, she was assured that 
     such consultations--because of the candor essential to the 
     process--were held in strict confidentiality. But in 1988, 
     one of her reviews was leaked to the press and quickly found 
     its way to a congressional committee where she was pilloried 
     as anti-Semitic, based on a selective reading of private 
     comments removed from their proper context. She was 
     subsequently vindicated, although the unfortunate affair 
     proved not to be at an end. After her appointment as House 
     Historian last year, these false and preposterous changes 
     were resurrected in Congress and the major media made a 
     particularly unseemly rush to judgment based on her presumed 
     guilt. Not surprisingly, her summary dismissal followed, 
     based on nothing more than hearsay and a complete misreading 
     of the original incident in 1988. Those in the Congress and 
     the media responsible for circulating these distortions owe 
     Dr. Jeffrey a profound apology.
       We are gratified, once again, that Professor Jeffrey has 
     finally received some justice. The lessons to be drawn for 
     the future, however, seem obvious: if scholars working in 
     government service are guaranteed anonymity--an essential 
     component in many professions--this must be respected by 
     political leaders and journalists. Otherwise, given the sad 
     experience of Mrs. Jeffrey, many academics will be 
     understandably chary of accepting similar opportunities for 
     public service lest the same fate befall them.

                                       Anti-Defamation League,

                                    New York, NY, August 22, 1995.
     Prof. Christina Jeffrey,
     Department of Political Science and International Affairs, 
         Marietta, GA.
       Dear Professor Jeffrey: Thank you for your letter. I, too, 
     found our meeting in Atlanta rewarding. I understand and 
     appreciate your explanation--and remorse--for what we both 
     agree were ill-considered, poorly chosen remarks.
       I want to assure you that, after examining the facts and 
     circumstances of the controversy involving the ``Facing 
     History and Ourselves'' Holocaust curriculum, ADL is 
     satisfied that any characterization of you as anti-Semitic or 
     sympathetic to Nazism is entirely unfounded and unfair.
       Your clear repudiation of any form of Holocaust denial and 
     your advocacy of Holocaust education demonstrate that the 
     ``Facing History'' incident reflected neither an inclination 
     to deny the reality of Nazi persecution of Jews nor anti-
     Semitism, but was simply a regrettable mistake.
       I welcome your very useful suggestion for a conference on 
     Holocaust education at Kennesaw State College, perhaps 
     involving other colleges in the area. ADL would be pleased to 
     act as a co-sponsor and to offer our resource materials and 
     guidance for such a worthy proposal.
       I commend your effort to set the record straight and your 
     appreciation of the need for historical accuracy and for 
     teaching the lessons of the Holocaust. I hope this 
     communication will help you to put the unfortunate 
     controversy behind you and allow you to move ahead with your 
     important educational work.
                                                Abraham H. Foxman,
     National Director.

                 Out of Spotlight, Reputation Restored

                           (By Dick Williams)

       For Newt Gingrich and his staff, the issue of Dr. Christina 
     Jeffrey was one of damage control. For the press, it was a 
     one-day story. For the cynical, it was the allotted 15 
     minutes of fame for Jeffrey, an associate professor of 
     history at Kennesaw State College.
       For Jeffrey, her professor husband, Robert, and their 
     children, it was personal. The events of January scarred her 
     and damaged the family reputation and finances. Today she is 
     asking--to use the words of former Labor Secretary Ray 
     Donovan--``Where do I go to get my reputation back?''
       It will be an uphill battle.
       Jeffrey has been on a roller coaster. In the excitement of 
     Gingrich's accession to speaker of the House, she was named 
     House historian early this year. It was a plum, a career-
     maker, for someone at a commuter college. Then came the 
     accusation that changed her life. In 1986, while consulting 
     for the U.S. Department of Education, she criticized a junior 
     high school course on the Holocaust.
       ``The program,'' she wrote then, ``gives no evidence of 
     balance or objectivity. The Nazi point of view, however 
     unpopular, is still a point of view and is not presented, nor 
     is that of the Ku Klux Klan.''
       In the shorthand of the press, that sentence became her 
     assertion that ``the Nazi point of view'' wasn't presented. 
     If she had it to do over again, you can bet she would phrase 
     her objections differently. To properly understand Nazism and 
     the origins of the Klan, students should understand the 
     forces that spawned them, the economy, the resentments and 
     the paranoia. To understand how they came to be is to 
     understand how such perverse movements can be prevented.
       But Jeffrey's text and context were lost to the shorthand 
     and the headlines. Major Jewish groups were quick to condemn 
     her, and Gingrich was lightning quick in firing her. She 
     didn't land in the U.S. Capitol; she arrived in a revolving 
     door that sent her spinning back toward Georgia--her 
     reputation shredded in one day's headlines around the nation.
       Fortunately, both Jeffreys were able to regain the jobs 
     they had quit to go to Washington. They lost a good deal of 
     money in the relocation, but they are on the mend. And this 
     week came vindication, though you had to look hard to find 
       Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League of 
     B'nai B'rith wrote to exonerate her. When she was dismissed, 
     the Anti-Defamation League had praised Gingrich, saying 
     Jeffrey's views were ``misguided and profoundly offensive.''
       Now Foxman says he agrees with Jeffrey that her remarks 
     were ill-considered and poorly chosen, but he told The 
     Washington Post that if Gingrich gives her a job again, the 
     Anti-Defamation League would say, ``God bless.''
       ``I want to assure you,'' he said, ``that after examining 
     the facts and circumstances of the controversy involving the 
     `Facing History and Ourselves' Holocaust curriculum, [the 
     Anti-Defamation League] is satisfied that any 
     characterization of you as anti-Semitic or sympathetic to 
     Nazism is entirely unfounded and unfair.''
       In a perfect world, such a letter would right the good ship 
     Jeffrey. But the story was lost to the trial of Mark Fuhrman, 
     air attacks in Bosnia and Hillary Rodham Clinton's stern and 
     stirring speech in China.
       The story received no national play. The truth is, the 
     corrections never catch up with the headlines, unless one has 
     the resources of Philip Morris.
       Still, for Christina Jeffrey, her academic reputation has 
     been restored, even if the views of the broader public will 
     take longer to change. She speaks now of ``peace of mind,'' 
     and--of course--a book. If she is successful, she might get 
     even in a lot of ways.