By Gore Vidal
I read with astonishment a piece by Andrew Gumbel, “Whose America Now? Not Gore Vidal’s,” which appeared in The Huffington Post recently. Mr. Gumbel, I am told, is a British journalist who, like so many before him, has immersed himself in our native tabloid culture, having been well-seasoned in the British variety. Not since Jonathan Swift have we heard such a voice out of those foggy islands.
Some time ago, Vanity Fair asked me to see an interviewer, as they were planning a Spanish edition and wanted an interview with me for some purpose. Imagine how shocked I was at the Republican-style lies that he spread about me for reasons hardly clear. I look forward to when I am in court with him, at which point I shall learn more about who and what were behind this weirdly venomous and libelous piece.
Usually when a hack journalist decides to invent an all-out attack on someone, attempts are made to sound like the one being libeled, but he apparently could not go to this trouble. Instead, he writes, I gave him “a look of pure contempt” when I allegedly said slaves have a hard time making poetry (this might have been a warning for him not to try poetry). I am told that multiple innocent readers of The Huffington Post sent in for copies, apparently in good faith that what was supposedly my part of the dialogue was indeed true.
Next he pretends that I am attacking Barack Obama, whom I have been supporting for some months now—in print, on radio and on television—and as I write he is the president-elect. Gumbel seems to know nothing about my political writing, as he babbles on: “Vidal, like many of his generation and social standing, clearly cannot fathom how the son of a single mother from Kansas and a Kenyan father could presume to occupy the Oval Office. And while he expressed his distaste with an extraordinary degree of frankness, not to mention racial venom, he is far from the only one.”
Gumbel, in his confusion and malice, now lumps together as proto-racist Hillary Clinton, among others, with me. This is very fanciful. Then he goes in for some deep thoughts, in which the most superficial of Brits always like to indulge when they are flunking a grade. He also mentions as part of a “backlash” Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, who “are far from the first political figures to suggest that ‘their America’—parts of the country that subscribe to their ideology and conform to their idea of how society should function—is the real America.”
He then writes a rapid series of lies about me. “Vidal’s reactionary bile is part of a clear historical [sic] pattern that has, at different times, condoned the slavery he alludes to; espoused open prejudice against immigrants, Jews, Catholics and the industrial working class; and embraces the notion that democracy is somehow too precious to be entrusted to more than a fraction of the people governed.”
All of this is pure nonsense. I trust that when Mr. Gumbel is in court, he will explain to us where he found anywhere in my work a condoning of slavery or any other kind of “open prejudice” he counts among his primitive inventions about me. (Mr. Gumbel’s gifts for fiction are less than he presumes.)
One of The Huffington Post’s kindly readers writes in how he would like to think my “unfortunate quote was actually [my] japing on what a hypothetical blueblood might think, and not his own opinion.” This is generous. But since this fairly lengthy libel is all untrue, I cannot take credit for being the P.G. Wodehouse de nos jours.
Editor’s note: Gore Vidal, a frequent contributor to Truthdig, discusses Obama’s candidacy in this video clip from April 2007. Andrew Gumbel has written one piece for Truthdig.
Zuade Kaufman / Truthdig