MAY 22, 1945
HYDE PARK, Monday—I was shocked on Saturday to read about the hearing before the House Veterans Legislation Committee in which Albert Deutsch, of the newspaper PM, was questioned.
I imagine that most people are interested, as I am, in making sure that our returned veterans, if they need treatment at a veterans' hospital, receive the best medical care possible. At this hearing, however, the discussion did not seem to center on an effort to find out whether that care was good or bad. It seemed to be primarily directed at trying to discredit a man who had written some critical articles. He was cited for contempt because he would not give the names of a few employees of the Veterans Administration who, in confidence and on condition that their names be not used, gave him some information.
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I certainly am conscious of the wisdom of asking newspapers and their writers to show that their information has come from good sources. Plenty of things have been written about me which had no foundation in fact whatsoever. Yet in this particular case the writer had given plentiful evidence as to his sources. To force him to give a few names of people from whom he had obtained confidential information would mean that in the future no employees of any government or private group would dare to give such information. That would mean, in many cases, that investigations would not be started, because no one would know that anything was wrong. Few people can afford to risk their jobs in order to bring to light things which they may know should be remedied.
If good sources of information had not been given, there would then be valid criticism of a writer or a newspaper. But this was not the case in the present instance, and therefore the procedure of holding Mr. Deutsch in contempt endangers the public interest. I hope that all who have any interest in our veterans or in good government will write to Representative John Rankin, chairman of the committee, as well as to their own Congressmen, and protest the action. If this procedure is not changed, future sources of information will be intimidated, and that is dangerous to the public good.
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I am sure that the men who took this action did so without thinking through what the implications were, and how it might harm not only the veterans, but the public. If our veterans do not receive the best medical care, they will not return to a self-supporting basis. These men are young men, and the cost to the public of good care which returns them to normal living will be far less than poor care which leaves them a burden on the public for the rest of their lives. Beyond that, the public is entitled to know the truth as a reputable journalist sees it.