-Caveat Lector- an article from: Blacklisted News, Secret History . . . From Chicago, '68, to 1984 1983 Youth International Party Information Service Bleecker Publishing POB 392 Canal St. Station New York, NY 10012 ISBN 0-912873-00-0
INSIDE THE CIA WITH GLORIA STEINEM
by Nancy Borman reprinted from the Village Voice
At Random House on March 15, 1976, Feminist Revolution was just another
women's book in production. It consisted of a multifaceted analysis of the
women's liberation movement edited by members of Redstockings, an early
radical feminist group. A self-published edition released the previous fall
had stirred up controversy with its indictment of liberals, lesbian pseudo-
leftists, and foundation grant feminists. 5000 copies had sold out.
Part of the book-some say the most interesting part-was titled "Agents,
Opportunists and Fools." It attempted to link the CIA and the corporate
establishment to several individuals and institutions connected with Ms.
Magazine, hardly frightening material for the publishers, through a
subsidiary, Knopf, of The CIA and the Intelligence. Feminist Revolution had
passed an initial libel reading by Random House's legal department on March
2nd, and a contract was signed in the office that March morning. 20,000 copies
of the book were scheduled to hit the stores in June.
That afternoon, an unannounced visitor appeared in the citadel of the free
press. A presumably angry Gloria Steinem asked to see Random House president
Robert Bernstein. She was there to hand-deliver a letter from her attorney
threatening to sue for libel unless the chapter on the CIA was removed from
No one knows what Steinem and Bernstein said in their private meeting, and it
may have been just coincidence that, within weeks Random House was blitzed
with similar threats from other people and groups mentioned in the CIA
chapter: Clay Felker, Women's Action AlIiance, Warner Communications, Franklin
Thomas, the Overseas Education Fund of the League of Women Voters, and
Katherine Graham. But, in any case, publication of Feminist Revolution was
delayed nearly 3 years; the printing run was cut to 12,500, despite 13,000
advance orders; and when the book was finally released last month, the chapter
on Gloria Steinem and the CIA had been deleted in its entirety. Somehow, the
word "abridged" on the cover fails to answer the question: What happened?
On March 21st, of this year, 6 weeks after Feminist Revolution was finally
published, 5 members of Redstockings held a press conference to argue that
their book would be better described as "censored." Katie Sarachild, Colette
Price, Carol Hanisch, Sherry Lipsky, and Jane Barry said that at first they
had been astonished that Random House caved into pressure to ax the chapter.
But they also laid the blame on Steinem and her associates for using "libel"
claims to stifle debate within the women's movement and to suppress
embarrassing information about themselves. Price pointed out that the Zenger
trial, which launched the American tradition of freedom of the press, was a
The near-total blackout on the Steinem/Random House censorship story is
reminiscent of the level of enthusiasm Redstockings encountered when they
first tried to get coverage for the story of Steinem and the CIA.
Their 16-page tabloid "press release" charging that Steinem had covered up a
10-year association with the CIA and that Ms. magazine, which she had founded,
was endangering the women's liberation movement struck the 1975 MORE
conference like a new war coming over the wire. The hotel was abuzz and people
snatched up the releases, but when it came to actually writing the story,
nearly everyone bowed out. One reporter criticized the women for not obtaining
Steinem's side of the story before publishing the release. Others skimmed the
material and dismissed it as old news, which was partially true. Still others
thought it was McCarthyistic both in tone and casual conclusions.
In 1967 both the New York Times and the Washington Post carried interviews
with Steinem in the wake of Ramparts' expose of CIA funding of the National
Student Association and other organizations. Steinem was the founder and
director of one of those groups, Independent Research Service, for which she
had solicited and obtained CIA money to carry out covert operations at
Communist youth festivals in Vienna and Helsinki in 1959 and 1952. Unlike most
of the other principals in the scandal, who had repudiated their past work
with the agency and turned over information to the press, Steinem defended her
secret deal with the CIA, calling the undermining of the youth festivals "the
CIA's finest hour."
Random House first learned of Feminist Revolution in January 1976, when Betty
Friedan mentioned it to her editor James Silberman, also Random House vice
president, publisher, and editor-in-chief. Random House eagerly bought the
manuscript, offering the authors a $12,000 advance and a June publication
date, pending the outcome of a libel reading by an outside law firm, Weil,
Gotshal & Manges. Of the lawyers' few objections, the only one that involved
the chapters on the CIA was Redstockings' charge that a particular police
agent had conceived of and pushed black community activists into a conspiracy
to bomb the Statue of Liberty. Redstockings submitted further documentation on
each point and no further issue was taken with any part of the book before the
contract was signed on March 15. An editorial fact sheet was drawn up for the
company's sales conference confirming the June 1976 pub date, and on March 18
the authors were paid half of their advance.
Meanwhile, some time between March 9 and 11, Random House editor Christine
Steinmetz had sent out routine requests for permission to reprint a number of
documents used in Feminist Revolution, including a classified ad which had
appeared in Ms. soliciting data on men who support the women's movement, and a
form letter from the Women's Action Alliance (a group founded by Gloria
Steinem) asking women to send in detailed information on feminist projects.
Rather than clear the way for Random House to include the 2 minor documents in
the Steinem/CIA chapter, the requests apparently served to tip off Steinem and
her circle that the Redstockings material was about to receive mass
distribution. Had Random House not sent letters, Steinem might not have popped
up in Bernstein's office on March 15.
Now, Robert Bernstein is not the kind of publisher easily persuaded to
suppress revelations about CIA activities. He has a reputation in the
publishing community as the white knight of the First Amendment. Among his
extracurricular activities have been: chairing the newly formed U.S. Helsinki
Watch Committee which monitors human rights on both sides of the Iron Curtain,
including the "freedom to write"; heading up the American Board of the Index
on Censorship; and membership on the boards of Amnesty International, the Fund
for Freedom of Expression, the International League for Human Rights, and
Writers & Scholars International.
He's also been chairman of the Association of American Publishers Committee on
International Freedom To Publish, and the recipient of the New York Civil
Liberties Union's Florina Lasker Award for having "dedicated his personal and
public life to the rights of man and woman everywhere to speak and publish
freely without censorship or fear of reprisal." In short, with Bernstein at
the helm, one wouldn't expect Random House editors to be trigger-happy with
their blue pencils.
At least before all those letters.
Without anyone saying how they had heard about the book, or specifically what
they felt should be changed, a flurry of letters arrived at Random House from
some of the city's most powerful law firms on behalf of several people and
groups involved in the Steinem/CIA chapter.
*Women's Action AlIiance, a tax-exempt information-gathering organization
founded by Gloria Steinem in 1971. WAA's attorney, Jeanne Drewson, of Paul,
Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, said in her letter that permission to
reprint a WAA form letter was denied, "to preserve any rights of the Alliance
or persons associated with the Alliance to pursue their legal remedies for
defamation and libel arising out of the publication of Feminist Revolution."
Although Drewson was pressed for specifics by Random House general counsel
Gerald Hollingsworth, there seems to be no record of any further details.
*Clay Felker then publisher of New York magazine. Felker, too, had attended
the World Youth Festival in Helsinki and had edited the Independent Research
Service's Helsinki Youth News, a CIA-funded daily newspaper. Felker claimed
that he did not know about the CIA funding of the newspaper at the time, but
as he told the Daily News, in 1975: "it was my understanding that this was an
anti-Communist effort. I was an anti-Communist and I remain an anti-Communist
today." Felker's attorney, E. Douglas Hamilton of Hall, McNicol, Marett and
Hamilton, wrote to Hollingsworth, warning that "the essence of the charge in
the article is that Mr. Felker and his magazine [New York] were working for
the CIA," and that this is "false and libelous." He says now he dropped the
correspondence because he only meant to convey that the material about Felker
*Ms. magazine, founded by Steinem and others. Ms, was criticized in the
Steinem/CIA chapter for having "substituted itself" for the "original,
authentic activists" of the women's liberation movement, and for pushing an
alternative to radicalism, Nancy Wechsler of Greenbaum, Wolff and Ernst
represented both Ms. and Steinem in their dealings with Random House.
*Warner Communications, which invested $1 million in Ms. (virtually 100% of
the capital although they took only 25% of the stock). Redstockings cited the
Warner deal as an example of the "curious financing" of Ms. Warner was also
represented by Paul, Weiss. Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison.
*Franklin Thomas, a board member of Women's Action Alliance (and recently
named president of the Ford Foundation). Redstockings pointed out that he was
the same Franklin Thomas who participated in the prosecution of the notorious
Statue of Liberty bombing conspiracy case in 1975 that sent three black
activists to prison. Thomas, who is also black, now says that he had nothing
to do with the investigation of the case, and that he would not have
authorized the threat of suit. He also says he doesn't remember how he learned
about the book, but as Steinem's frequent social escort, it would not have
been difficult for him to find out.
*The Overseas Education Fund of the League of Women Voters, which conducts
international seminars for women in Asia and Latin America. OEF was identified
in a 1975 article in Counterspy as allegedly helping the CIA obtain dossiers
on individuals and women's groups in those regions. They issued a denial at
the time. Redstockings used information from the Counterspy story to show the
CIA's interest in the international women's movement, without reporting in the
book OEF's denial. Hollingsworth talked to Marilyn Richards in the OEF office
in Washington, D.C., to try to pin down what parts of the book the fund
considered libelous. According to the correspondence files released to
Redstockings by Steinmetz, no libel specifics were ever made.
*Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post and Newsweek, described
on a cover of Ms. in 1974 as "the most powerful woman in America." Feminist
Revolution brought up the $20,000 she had initially invested in Ms. to support
their contention that Steinem was installed as a spokesperson of the women's
movement by the "rich and powerful." Graham sent off a note to Bernstein,
which was characterized by a Random House spokesperson as "personal." Although
neither Bernstein nor Graham would disclose the actual contents of the
message, a Random House staffer who claims to have seen the letter says that
Graham objected to references to herself in the chapter but did not threaten
legal action. The tone of the note was described as "breezy."
According to Redstockings, the only objection Hollingsworth asked them to deal
with was Thomas' because it was the only objection that cited specific
language in the book. Barbara Leon of Redstockings replied to Thomas'
attorney, offering to substitute a detailed quote from the New York Times
reporting that "in helping prepare the case ... Mr. Thomas presented nearly 50
witnesses before a grand jury to build an involved case of conspiracy and
obtain indictments." Leon also offered to use another Times story that cited
the Statue of Liberty case as a prime example of Thomas' "thorough approach"
which led to his appointment as deputy police commissoner. That ended the
*Kathie Sarachild says that initally[sic] it looked as if Random House was
backing them up:
"The Random House attorney was writing strong letters to the people who were
threatening to sue." So when, in a letter dated June 2, Steinem's attorney
suggested a meeting to go over the section being questioned, the authors did
not feel it was a priority to get their own attorney.
"That was a mistake," Sarachild now admits.
Random House lawyers discussed the objections with Steinem's attorney Nancy
Wechsler, with no one sitting in for the authors, on July 19, 28 and 29.
On July 29, Steinmetz told Redstockings that Hollingsworth had recommended
eliminating the Gloria Steinem section from the book. Soon after, Redstockings
received a copy of Hollingsworth's notes on his meeting with Wechsler. His
memorandum listed 114 items which Wechsler had told him she considered
libelous, covering nearly every paragraph in the chapter. Most of them claimed
defamation through "innuendo," not through direct falsehood, Random House
asked the authors to respond.
At the March 21 press conference Redstockings distributed copies of their
18-page answer to all the objections, which they had submitted to Random House
on September 15, 1976. Reading both Wechsler's laundry list and the blow-for-
blow rebuttal is enlightening. If Random House canned a book chapter based on
Wechsler's arguments, some of us are going to have to be awfully careful what
we say in print from now on.
Attempting to demonstrate that somebody contradicted herself is apparently a
no-no�Wechsler protested that "Appendix II on page 154 coupled with the New
York Times quotation attributed to GS are libelous of GS in that they imply
that she lied."
"Appendix II" consists of a reprint from a 1961 publication of the Independent
Research Service which gives no "author but lists Gloria Steinem as
"director." The material is a list of participants in the Vienna Youth
Festival, including one American, emphasizing their Communist affiliations. An
introductory paragraph by the IRS explains that the bios show that there was
"a far greater Communist control of this event than the sponsors wish to
admit." This statement was juxtaposed by Redstockings with the following quote
from a February 21, 1967 New York Times interview with Steinem: "I was never
asked to report on Americans or assess foreign nationals I had met." While it
seems to me the quote cannot be taken as an absolute denial by Steinem that
she ever produced "reports" or "assessments" while funded by the CIA, and
might mean simply that she was never asked to, Redstockings; seemed to infer
that in making such a statement Steinem was covering up what seemed to be
Altruism on the part of a giant media corporation cannot be termed "
curious": Wechsler said it was libelous to say that Ms. was set up with
"curious corporate financing." The Steinem/CIA chapter mentioned that Warner
Communications put up $1 million to capitalize Ms. virtually 100 percent, but
took only 25 percent of the stock in exchange.
"Rich and powerful" is apparently a character slur: Wechsler's objection number
16 challenged the statement that Gloria Steinem was "installed by the rich and
powerful." Redstockings; said they were referring to Warner Communications,
Clay Felker, and Katherine Graham.
Calling a government agency counter revolutionary libels everyone who was
ever connected to it-objection number 29 stated the sentence "Women need a
revolution and the CIA's job is to prevent revolution" was libelous of Ms. and
Comparing the U.S. government's rationlization of Negro segregation in 1959
with Ms. magazine's analysis of women's position in 1975 is hitting below the
belt-objection number 41 was that excerpting Independent Research Service's
whitewash of segregation from a pamphlet written for distribution to foreign
youth implied that Gloria Steinem was a "CIA tool."
He who pays the piper does not, in fact, call the tune: Wechsler's objection
number 52 was that it is libelous to "imply that Ms. allows itself to be used
to promote Wonder Woman for Warner Communications." She said there is "no tie-
in between Wonder Woman and Warner." Redstockings said the tie-in was that,
through its subsidiary, DC Comics, Inc., Warner owns the Wonder Woman name.
Although Wechsler had not provided any documents to support her allegations
of falsi-ty or libel via "innuendo,',' Redstockings thereafter produced 31
documents, including letters, newspaper clippings, government publications,
and directory listings which they believe should have led Random House to
conclude that the section, as corrected, would not have led to a serious
*Early in October 1976, Silberman left Random House to take a job at Summit
Books and a week later, Steinmetz joined him. On October 27, Redstockings'
agent Jay Acton received a letter from Jason Epstein, who replaced Silberman
as Random House's editor-in-chief saying that Hollingsworth had reviewed their
answers to Wechsler and that it was his opinion that "republication in its
present form of Part 6 [Steinern & the CIA and three other chapters] ... would
pose unacceptable legal risks." He said that in his editorial judgement it was
not feasible to "cure the legal problems simply by editing the material on a
Why did Redstockings put up with this? Surely at this point they should have
contemplated pulling out and doing another self published edition of their
book? Sarachild says they compromised in order to gain access to a mass media.
"Half of Feminist Revolution is about how radicals got cut off from the mass
Sarachild says Redstockings plans to make the missing material available as a
pamphlet, or as a book, "if some publisher wants to one-up Random House."
Aren't they afraid Steinem will sue them if they publish the missing chapter?
They say they were ready for the possibility back in 1975, but no suit was
What about the charge made by some quarters of the women's movement that this
whole Steinem/CIA thing is too personal, that Redstocking is picking on
Steinem, perhaps jealous of her?
"You know," says Sarachild, "sometimes a single individual comes to represent
so much of what is wrong-and also has undue power to misinfluence things
because of their connections in the power structure." She points out that
Steinem's Women's Action Alliance not only gets help from the Carnegie
Foundation, but has also received support from Mobil Oil, and the Rockefeller
and Ford Foundations.
I tried to reach Gloria Steinem to get her side of all this, but she was in
meetings, out of the office, out to lunch, on her way to Washington, out
making ad presentations, and on the other phone whenever I called. Steinem
would not return my calls and limited herself to written statements to the
I called Random House and asked for Claudia Stern, the publicist whose name is
on The Feminist Revolution press release, to find out how the publishers are
explaining the incident. Stern said she did not know what had happened to the
missing chapter because she had only been there 4 months.
Stern put me in contact with Charlotte Mayerson, who took Steinmentz's place
as editor for the book. Mayerson said that when she came in on the book "it
was already in galleys or boards or something." She didn't really remember
when that was but said it was after 1976.
Mayerson said she didn't remember why the chapter was cut. Had she read it?
She said she might have but she didn't remember it. I asked if there were any
records or files around so that someone could check if the chapter had been
deleted for editorial or legal reasons. Mayerson replied that it would take 2
days for her to go through the files on the book and a long time to answer my
question. "And frankly," she said, "I don't feel like it."
I called Gerald Hollingsworth in the legal department and told him that Stern
and Mayerson could not remember what had happened to the chapter on Gloria
Steinern and the CIA; could he tell me if there were any legal problems with
the chapter? He asked if I had seen the notice on the title page that some
article had been deleted for legal reasons. He said he really couldn't say
whether the material I was asking about had been taken out for editorial or
Then there had been legal reasons? Yes. Had anybody threatened to sue for
libel? Hollingsworth said he stands "behind the statement in front of the
Has there been any correspondence in anticipation of lawsuits?
"I stand behind the statement in the front of the book."
That statement, on the copyright page, reads: "Much of this book was
originally published by Redstockings late in 1975 under the title, Feminist
Revolution. A number of articles were changed or omitted for legal reasons."
Redstockings says they tried to get the phrase "by the publisher" inserted in
the last sentence, but that Random House refused.,
Hollingsworth was less than open, but the message was clear. You don't need an
injunction for "national security" reasons to get something deleted from a
book these days. All it takes is some indignant letters from the unradical
chic. But if you don't like holes in the books you buy, don't complain to the
Helsinki Watch Committee or to Amnesty International or to the NYCLU or even
to the Index on Censorship. Instead, write to Redstockings and ask them to
send you the missing pages.
--Overthrow, July '79
It is noteworthy that at the first American Writer's Congress at the end of
1981, ex-CIA operative Gloria Steinem was prominent on the dias; that all
present nodded affirmatively at her threats of libel suits against those who'd
questioned the propriety of a leading feminist spokesperson having so
notorious and open a CIA background; and that not a single writer present rose
to speak up for the Redstockings point-of-view.
It was as if the very possibility of a critical alternative on the Left had
been erased, obliterated by four years of Carter. First by enlisting the
Left's acquiescence during the '76 campaign, then by offering clemency and
indicting a few token FBI agents, Carter's centrist strategy concluded
startling political penetration of the Left which split WUO, Prairie Fire,
their entire following. The majority were induced to 'lay down their arms,' to
refrain from 'counterproductive' agitation in hope of future reforms by a
visibly unsympathetic administration. Significantly, before 1977 was out, 5
members of the "R.C." (anti-'Inversion') faction of Prairie Fire/WUO
(including Clayton Von Lydegraf and cadres in in Houston and L.A., were
arrested during the government-sponsored Houston International Women's
Conference for plotting to blow up the house of L.A. State Sen. Briggs,
sponsor of the Calif. anti-gay initiative.