‘The New York Times’ Offers an Appreciation of Nat Hentoff

By January 9, 2009

A day after Greg authored FIRE’s salute to Nat Hentoff, who penned his valedictory column for the Village Voice this week after more than fifty years on the staff of the venerable publication, Clyde Haberman of The New York Times has authored an appreciation of his own.

Of Natan active member of FIRE’s Board of AdvisorsHaberman writes: "Few have more assiduously and consistently defended the right of people to express their views, no matter how objectionable." And echoing Greg’s tribute to Nat as "a stubborn thorn in the side of very many would-be repressors," Haberman notes that Nat’s passionate views on free and unfettered speech have confounded traditional orthodoxy and easy labeling for decades.    

Describing Nat as "in a league of his own," Haberman is sorry to see him go from the Voice, but does not mistake the end of his tenure there for the end of an illustrious career:

Do not mistake this for an obituary. It’s not even close to one. Mr. Hentoff may not hear as well as he once did, or stand quite as straight. But he will not fade to silence. Citing the late journalists George Seldes and I.F. Stone as his muses, he promised in a farewell Voice column to continue "putting on my skunk suit at other garden parties." He will write for the United Media syndicate and Jewish World Review, and also reflect on jazz, his lifelong passion, in The Wall Street Journal.

And as Greg also noted, Nat will continue to follow FIRE’s efforts closely, offering commentary such as the excoriating column he wrote about Professor Donald Hindley’s disgraceful treatment by Brandeis University. FIRE is glad to see the Times‘ praise added to our own, but it goes without saying that no number of column inches could articulate the debt of gratitude weand countless othersfeel for Nat’s tireless commitment to free speech.