Today, The Washington Times published an editorial titled “Inartful Politics” that contains many inaccuracies and fabrications. It was originally posted on its The Water Cooler blog and was preceded by a number of other blog posts by the writer that were equally unfounded.
On September 13, I issued the following letter to the editors of The Washington Times urging them to correct this misinformation.
To the Editors of The Washington Times:The better health care for artists conspiracy fabricated by Kerry Picket of The Washington Times goes something like this:
The White House and the NEA, which gives out grants, “pressured” 21 national arts organizations and a bunch of artists on a conference call to “comply with the Administration’s wishes” to advocate for health care which resulted in the release of statements endorsing health care reform and urging Congress to act. Plus, when the President and CEO of Americans for the Arts met with the incoming NEA Chair on August 27 or 28, as chronicled in a podcast by Americans for the Arts, Lynch must have been pushed into supporting health care reform because the podcast posted on his website mentioned it once, and then had a mysterious audio failure for a couple of days at the end of August. And when Ms. Picket called about the podcast it went back up.
Moderately interesting as fiction, this, however, is very poor journalism.
None of the 21 arts organizations, to my knowledge, were on the August 10 conference call, which was reported as for artists, arts marketers, and producers. So no opportunity to “pressure” there. Americans for the Arts did not even learn about the conference call until we read news reports about it in September. Additionally, artists, except for some writers, are not allowed to get direct grants from the NEA (even though they ought to be); but sorry, no pressure opportunity there either. And the health care statement by the 21 arts groups was begun and finished well before August 10.
The nation’s arts groups have a long history of advocating to presidential administrations and Congress, not the other way around. In December 2007, almost two years ago, Americans for the Arts released a widely publicized policy brief that included items on health care and the arts to all Presidential candidates. And in March 2009 we issued another policy brief on health care and the arts that was drafted in agreement with more than 80 national arts organizations.
Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch and NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman did not meet on August 27 or 28. They did meet earlier in August as chronicled in the informal podcast posted on the Americans for the Arts blog. They didn’t discuss health care. Ms. Picket never called about that podcast although our records do show that she called our communications staff to ask how much money we receive from the NEA.
The arts are integrated into all parts of the government and have been for at least the last half-century. They were part of pioneering work with the Department of Education during the Reagan Administration and were part of important work with Department of Defense in the Bush Administration, just to name a few. Americans for the Arts has years of monographs, policy papers, and podcasts available on its website and unless there is the inevitable occasional technology hiccup, as happened last week on its blog, this information is available 24/7 because we want as many people to read and listen as possible.
I am sure that Ms. Picket will find new tidbits to weave into her fiction simply because thousands of arts advocates have been talking about health care and the arts for many years now. What should not be obscured is that more than two million artists and some 5.8 million workers in the $167 billion nonprofit arts economy deserve decent health care. The arts are part of the solution. At the risk of giving Ms. Picket more unknown information for her to uncover just read our 1998 Monograph on the Arts in Medicine or our 2004 Monograph on the Culture of Care about the arts in U.S. hospitals.
The arts are America’s secret weapon for a better future. We could use a conspiracy to ensure that benefit for the American public.
I have attached additional information that clarifies the unfounded blogs and inaccurate editorial posted on The Washington Times website written by Kerry Picket on Thursday and Friday. I understand that an editorial based on this inaccurate information is appearing in your paper on Monday, September 14. I urge you to reconsider that mistake but if published ask you to also print this clarification in its entirety.
I hope you will address these inaccuracies accordingly and in guidance with your editorial policies. Should you wish talk about this further, I would be pleased to speak with you. Thank you for your time.
Robert L. Lynch
President and CEO
Americans for the Arts
Americans for the Arts also issued a statement outlining and correcting the inaccuracies in The Washington Times editorial. A PDF is available here.