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New York Review of Books editor struggles to defend controversial Ghomeshi piece.


Just a few hours after the New York Review posted an essay by the disgraced Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, Isaac Chotiner of Slate interviewed Ian Buruma, the editor who commissioned the piece. Critics felt the New York Review gave Ghomeshi space to whitewash the accusations against him by more than 20 women of various forms of sexual misconduct, including acts of violence such as punching and choking. Buruma’s responses to Chotiner made the rounds on Twitter Friday evening:

You say it’s not your “concern,” but it is your concern. If you knew the allegations were true, I assume you would not have run the piece.

Well, it depends what the allegations are. What you were saying just now was rather vague.

Punching women against their will.

Those are the allegations, but as we both know, sexual behavior is a many-faceted business. Take something like biting. Biting can be an aggressive or even criminal act. It can also be construed differently in different circumstances. I am not a judge of exactly what he did. All I know is that he was acquitted and he is now subject to public opprobrium and is a sort of persona non grata in consequence. The interest in the article for me is what it feels like in that position and what we should think about.

In his piece, he writes, “In October 2014, I was fired from my job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after allegations circulated online that I’d been abusive with an ex-girlfriend during sex.” But it was not about online rumors. The Toronto Star, a famed and respected newspaper, was about to publish a big piece, and that is why he resigned, correct?

It’s a respected newspaper, yes.

But you don’t think that’s misleading in any way?

Not really, but again, I am not judging him for the exact rights and wrongs of what he did in the past.

I am asking you about what he wrote in your magazine.

No, I don’t think so.

He also writes, “In the aftermath of my firing, and amid a media storm, several more people accused me of sexual misconduct.” Is “several” sufficient for more than 20 women?

Well, in a literal sense, it is. It might have been better to mention the exact number, possibly so.

Many an eyebrow was raised by the interview: