In your article about The New York Times' selection of Bill Kristol as an op-ed columnist, you quoted me saying, "I saw the excellent piece that the public editor wrote the other day, and that pretty much tells the story" ("The Fifth Columnist," February 13). That's true: Clark Hoyt's column accurately recounted the brouhaha that took place three decades ago when I left the Nixon White House to join the Times. But then you juxtaposed my comment about his whole column with a personal conclusion that Hoyt had come to: "This is a decision I would not have made."

That marriage of quotations was misleading; it makes it seem I agreed with his opinion, which I do not. I hope you'll set your readers straight.

William Safire

Gabriel Sherman replies:

In response to a question about The New York Times' recent hiring of Kristol and the paper's relationship with conservative columnists, Safire refused to comment, except to say that the January 13 column by Hoyt was "excellent." Hoyt was unambiguous in his criticism of Kristol. And, in his endorsement of the piece, Safire didn't draw a distinction between the column's discussion of Safire's history with the paper and its critique of Kristol's recent appointment to the Times.

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