The Willis Carto Letter
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Again, as repeatedly stated in previous issues of SR, we know that we should let sleeping dogs lie and not open up old wounds. If I had a chance, I wouldn't publish the following article. But we are in the business of posting the contents of all issues of Smith's Report for historical and archival reasons—all of its contents. So we won't hide this opinion piece either. –Webmaster, Sept. 21, 2015
Several months ago I received a letter from Willis Carto dated February 19, 1995 and taking me to task for being “self-serving,” an “egoist,” “dangerous,” “untrustworthy,” “perverse,” a “smearer,” a man from the “sewer,” a “fraud,” “prejudiced,” “deceitful,” “sanctimonious,” an “exhibitionist,” “base,” a “dirty book seller,” “swinish,” “tasteless,” of uncertain “mental balance,” a “skewed personality,” “boorish,” “sick,” an “oddball,” “megalomaniac,” a “caterwauler” for money, “greedy,” a man with “pudgy paws” and a “voracious appetite for personal aggrandizement,” a “liar,” a “bum,” a “sponger,” and so on—and so on.
Frankly, I considered it to be an unfriendly letter. Before long I began hearing about the letter being received by other people here and abroad. Because the letter claims that I “ripped off IHR” for $200,000 and cost it another $200,000 by being responsible for the second Mermelstein law suit against IHR, I understood it was a letter that could undermine the confidence many of you have in me, which would further contribute to my financial woes. I suppose that was part of the reason for Carto writing the letter in the first place.
I thought well, I’ll reprint Carto’s letter in Smith’s Report and respond to it as best I can. About that time however I was wrestling with the issue of whether to commit myself to marketing Smith’s Report full time to a broad general audience or finishing the book manuscript for Break His Bones. As you may recall, in my (carelessly undated) April letter, I came down on the side of the book manuscript. After I got that decision and that letter out of my hair, I more or less forgot the Carto letter.
A few days ago I learned that David Irving had reported on Carto’s letter in Irving’s Action Report (No. 9, May 1995, p. 13). Under a headline reading “Willis Carto: Day of Reckoning Approaches,” Irving reports
LOS ANGELES—The costly legal dispute between Willis Carto and his godchild, the Institute for Historical Review, over his disposition of the multi-Million dollar bequest of Jean Farrel-Edison is approaching a bitter climax. Both Carto and his German-born wife Elisabeth have taken the Fifth’—refusing to testify if this might incriminate themselves. On Feb. 19, 1995 Carto sent a colourful two page letter to people on the IHR mailing list attacking Bradley Smith, who revealed this [Carto and his wife 'taking the Fifth.']
Carto claimed to have furnished $200,000 to fund Smith and his Campaign for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH)....
Because this Carto “claim” is simply false, I could say it’s false and let it go at that, but I believe people who have trusted me over the years, upon hearing it, will feel their trust shaken. How is anyone to really know the truth about any of the charges? Slander is a powerfully effective weapon for instilling distrust about those you see as your enemy, as those of you who have been the victim of it sometime in your life well know. There is no way to erase all the damage it can do. The primary reason why it is so difficult for revisionism to get a fair hearing on campus and in media is because of the professional use of slander by the Deborah Lipstadts, the ADL’ers and the rest of that pack, who have now been joined by the Willis Carto’s.
The first time I read the letter my attention was drawn to the neurotic character of the personal insults. When I saw the letter excerpted in Irving’s Action Report, and when I saw what had caught Irving’s attention,—the $200,000—I understood it was a more noteworthy missive than I’d given it credit for.
So what I am going to do is reproduce Carto’s letter here in all it’s glory and answer those charges in it that are not excessively maudlin. I’ve blacked out one short paragraph in which Carto has inserted an off-the-wall defamatory anecdote about a third party who plays no other role in the letter, other than being a gratuitous target.[Editor's remark: the paragraph numbers were added in handwriting by Bradley Smith]
Bradley R. Smith
February 19, 1995
O wad some power the giftie gie us
Willis A. Carto,
MY RESPONSE TO CARTO’S LETTER:
Paragraphs 1,2,3: no response.
When I got into this work it was very' unusual for revisionists in America to show (“exhibit”) themselves publicly as revisionists—Professor Butz and David McCalden were two exceptions. But there was a widely held fear of physical assault, even of being shot or killed in some other way. Maybe it was exaggerated. Maybe it wasn’t. Times passes, and we forget how many revisionists were in fact threatened with beatings and even death. We forget that throughout the 1980s IHR employees experienced many violent threats, its office windows were shot out, and in 1984 the Institute was burned to the ground in a vicious arson attack.
I saw my work as taking revisionist theory to the public—openly. I was the one who went directly to the print press, directly to talk radio, directly to television, directly to college campuses. Nobody else was doing any of that. I was, truly, making an “exhibit” of myself. The public was hearing about revisionist ideas but never saw flesh and blood revisionists. I saw part of my work as giving revisionism a public presence, a body. I included my photograph and telephone number on nearly every piece of paper I sent out. Sometimes I put it on the outside of envelopes. I consciously made a target of myself. It’s natural to forget what a dramatic turn of events that was in the 1980s. It’s all old hat now. Yet there’s still plenty of work to be done. Plenty of “exhibitionist” acts to perform. It’s like public theater. You have a role to play in public, there’s a reason you play the role, and you can’t take seriously those who ridicule you for playing the role. It’s important theater, it’s an important role, and as we in show business say, the show really must go on.
Selling dirty books on Hollywood Boulevard refers to my being arrested by Los Angeles Police and tried for refusing to remove Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer from my bookstore window in 1960. Tropic was banned at that time in this country by the U.S. Government, along with Lady Chatterly’s Lover and a number of other classic English language literary works.
I suppose when I refused to remove Tropic from my bookstore window I could have been called an exhibitionist. After all, the big bookstore on the block, Louie Epstein’s Pickwick Books, sold their copies of Tropic from under the counter. But I thought there was a larger issue at stake. I thought students had the right to read radical literary works, just as today I believe they have the right to read radical historical papers. Once an exhibitionist I suppose, always an exhibitionist.
Re the $200,000—we’ll get to it below.
Paragraphs 6 & 7:
The story about the birth of my daughter, Paloma, who is nine years old now, and how that night fit into my experience with revisionism and the Jewish community, makes up a chapter in Break His Bones.
With regard to the story being boring, tasteless, perhaps mentally unbalanced and skewed and truly sick, I suppose it is, like so much other stuff I write, but I remember how Elizabeth was laughing while I told it. Willis was sitting there beside her appalled, true enough, like a real Puritan, but Elizabeth had covered her face with her hands and was laughing so hard she had to wipe tears from her eyes. Now there’s the kind of woman a writer like me wants in his audience. Someone with real blood running in their veins. The Puritans and sour pusses just aren’t my audience.
This chapter of Break His Bones still has some rough edges, but if you’d like to see it, send me a couple bucks and I’ll mail it to you. Write me your reaction. Maybe I’ll run it here. Maybe you’ll be the one who will convince me to leave this kind of trash out of the book.
Willis made the right decision this time.
This is the one I’m deleting, as it is about a third party, it’s gratuitously insulting to her, and it has nothing to do with me or Willis or the subject to hand.
Paragraphs 10 & 11:
This is the big one. I ripped off IHR for $200,000. Willis doesn’t quite say what he is referring to. With some reason.
Beginning in July 1984 when, following the arson destruction of IHR I offered to try to take revisionism to the public, through 1993, IHR paid me a monthly retainer of $1,500 before taxes. That adds up to about $180,000 gross over a ten year period. While it wasn’t an ideal income on which to take care of a wife, two children, myself and my mother, particularly in a town like Los Angeles, it was a safety net. Additionally, it is not without precedent that when you are hired to do something, you get paid for it. Getting paid for your work is what makes First World countries go ‘round. Without pay I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the work I did. As a matter of fact, IHR paid me additional funds to carry out the Media Project.
CODOH never received any money from IHR or Carto. Period. None! I financed CODOH from beginning to end by contributions from supporters. I financed CODOH’s Campus Project entirely out of money I raised from you who read this newsletter. CODOH did benefit from my friendly association with IHR. IHR and the Journal is what CODOH stood on to carry out its projects. Without the Journal, there wouldn’t have been a revisionist “movement” in America. But IHR benefited from CODOH just as CODOH benefited from IHR. It’s CODOH who is taking revisionism to the campus and to media, and it is largely CODOH that has made “revisionism” a household work in America. We all benefited. It’s childish, and a little stupid, to argue that it is right for IHR to benefit from CODOH but that CODOH should not benefit from IHR. We’re all in this together, for better or for worse.
And what does Carto mean with the truly (forgive me for repeating myself) stupid remark that I am profiting even more from the “demise” of IHR? The one thing that is certain is that IHR can no longer afford to give me a monthly retainer, that I have lost the cornerstone on which I depended for ten years, and that I have no known source to call upon to replace it.
Willis is convinced, or wants to pretend for reasons I don’t understand that he’s convinced, that Andrew Allen is an ADL agent. He has provided no proof for his charge. I have no proof which demonstrates the charge is true. What can I say? I will only repeat here that when I arrived in Visalia, with $8,000 in debts and the portable typewriter I had worked on for the previous five years, Allen used a charge card to buy me my first computer and printer. It would have been impossible for me to handle the Campus Project by myself without the computer. For four years now the Campus Project has been the single most effective revisionist program taking place in America. Allen thus played a fundamental role in getting the Campus Project off the ground. Maybe that’s how deep agents for the ADL work. I don’t know. But if I had to choose between working with Allen and working with Carto, Carto would come in a very poor last. I feel uncomfortable working with slanderers.
Paragraphs 13 & 14:
Here we have a conspiracy theory revolving around the two expensive legal dust-ups between Mel Mermelstein and IHR. Willis blames the first one on David McCalden and the second on me. Because we both knew and worked with Andrew Allen, that proves Allen is an ADL agent. That’s the way a Cartoid thinks.
With regard to the Mermelstein affairs: when the first suit Mermelstein brought against IHR was settled out of court, I was offered the editorship of the IHR Newsletter. I wrote in my first editorial about the irony of a “demonstrable fraud” like Mermelstein forcing IHR to settle out of court. Mermelstein, using that quote and a couple others, sued IHR again. I wrote the words, I was the editor, Mermelstein used the words, so I’m guilty. That’s the Cartoid scenario, now, after ten years. On no other subject has he practiced such stoicism!
But the fact is I didn’t write that newsletter in which my editorial appeared. I wrote the editorial. But I didn’t write the newsletter, I didn’t edit it, I didn’t proof it and I didn’t produce it. It was all done in IHR offices in Torrance. (See: IHR Newsletter, Aug, 1985, Number 33.)
My editorial was edited at IHR offices along with the rest of that issue. Tom Marcellus, Keith Stimely if I recall correctly, and Mr. Willis Carto who took a personal interest in that particular issue of the newsletter because in it Willis wanted to mollify contributors, who otherwise would see their donations going directly to Mermelstein. And Carto wanted to use the newsletter text to scapegoat David McCalden for being solely responsible for the first Mermelstein lawsuit. Carto has never been willing to admit he shared responsibility with McCalden for project which resulted in Mermelstein suing IHR.
The long and short of it then is that I didn’t edit that issue of the newsletter in which I used the words Carto refers to; Carto and the IHR staff edited it. That issue of the newsletter, as a matter of fact, is the only one that I am certain Carto had anything substantial to do with. It turns out he wasn’t very good at it, from his point of view, so after ten years he wants to put it off on me.
It’s true Willis never criticized me over the Mermelstein affair. I believe the reason he didn’t is that none of us looked at it from a view point that saw me as the one responsible. We all saw Mermelstein as being responsible. We all understood he was going to try it again. He told the press he was going to take another run at IHR. He swore publicly he was going to destroy IHR. We all saw the second suit as part of the inevitable struggle IHR was going to have to go through to stand as an institution. It’s true I never apologized for what I wrote. It’s true that Carto never apologized for how the newsletter was edited and produced. Nobody at IHR went around apologizing for being attacked by people like Mermelstein. Bearing up under attacks by the Mel Mermelsteins and the rest of those people was simply part of our lives. It still is.
Re my friends at IHR attacking Mark Lane. IHR's lawyers are in a life and death struggle with Carto’s lawyers. I’m certain they must attack each other. I have never attacked Mark Lane. We spoke on two occasions. One day toward the end of the second Mermelstein suit against IHR, Carto, Liberty Lobby, et. al., I was in the waiting room outside the court room when Mark Lane came out all smiles and we shook hands and he said in great good humor that he would be perfectly willing to put his name to what I had written about Mermelstein. I felt complimented. Within a couple days Lane had destroyed Mermelstein’s credibility before the court and the survivor had told his lawyers to get him out of there. That was the Mermelstein case you didn’t hear about in media.
The second time I talked with Mark Lane was the afternoon a day or two after Mermelstein had dropped his suit against IHR. David Cole and I interviewed Lane in his apartment in Los Angeles. Lane gave an interview that was perfectly organized intellectually, bawdy and even obscene, and very funny. In every sense a theatrical performance piece that produced the single best interview I have ever participated in. He destroyed Mermelstein all over again on video. The tape has plenty of laughs, some terrific drama and a lot of hard information.
The idea that there is something wrong with me selling this terrific revisionist video is idiotic. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. (Ask for Mark Lane: Truth Prevails. $25.) And—my thanks to Willis for reminding me of what a good, funny, and significant video this one is.
Willis wants to humiliate me by recalling that at one time I slept on my mother’s dinning room floor, and that I married a woman who cleaned houses for a living. Last fall when Elizabeth wrote an open letter to me she took a run at this one herself. As a matter of fact, both stories are true. I might as well give you the background.
During the mid-1970’s I worked for a small construction company in Topanga Canyon and in the mountains behind Malibu. In the late 1970’s I went on my own, specializing in trenching, excavation, block and gradually worked into doing concrete. Once in a while I would hurt my back. In 1982 I hurt if badly off-loading concrete block from a pickup. I can still hear how a couple of the vertebra sounded when they ground to a halt. I was working with another guy and he heard it too. Oddly, it didn’t hurt. The hurting started later.
To make a long story as short as possible, I laid on a pad on the floor in my mother’s apartment for seven months. I was fifty-two years old. It wasn’t just me and mommy. I had a wife and daughter. My wife had always worked as a house cleaner and now it was she who kept things together. I lost our pickup because I couldn’t pay for it, Irene had to take buses to her house cleaning jobs, and when she came home she had to take care of Magaly, and me because I couldn’t stand up, and she had to take care of my mother too, who is an invalid.
I don’t understand why the Cartos would believe it is humiliating to clean houses to help take care of your family. I worked with my hands nearly all my life; as a laborer, a longshoreman, a merchant seaman, in construction. My natural friends and associates were nearly always working class people. My father was a boiler maker. We had friends who worked in the fields and yes, others who cleaned houses. In 1993 when I was profiled by The New York Times, the journalist mentioned that my wife cleans houses to help make ends meet. Afterwards I received many anonymous phone calls and unsigned letters ridiculing me for being married to a house cleaner and telling me that’s what I deserve. Now I have gotten a couple such letters that are signed—by Elizabeth and Willis Carto.
I lay on the dinning room floor in my mother’s apartment then for seven months. In 1982 Mother was eighty-one years old. She had multiple sclerosis and had been unable to walk for 15 years. She could no longer feed herself. She couldn’t bathe herself. My wife could no longer lift her out of bed so we had a lift with a sling we would use to put her in her wheelchair and back in bed again. I don’t understand why the Cartos would find it humiliating to live with your mother when she needs your help so badly and when you can not afford to pay others to care for her properly and when the only other alternative would be to institutionalize her and put her in the hands of strangers.
During that time I wrote a play titled The Man Who Saw His Own Liver. In the summer of 1983 I began to get around a little. I had to be very careful. I was determined to produce the play. I found a producer, then lost him. I determined to produce the play myself. Irene would pay production costs from what she had scraped together by cleaning houses. I remember she and I taking the bus to a lumber yard and buying (with her money) a few pieces of lumber and then taking another bus to the theater where I had the lumber delivered and where I built a simple set. The play was well received by Los Angeles drama critics but failed commercially. I had already published a tabloid draft of Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist, and now I started working on a new draft of it. There was some talk at the time of IHR publishing it but it didn’t work out that way. I never believed Confessions would be a commercial success.
When 1984 rolled around I was in better health and increasingly involved with revisionism. I could not sit for long periods of time and could not stand in one place more than thirty minutes. It was clear I would not be able to return to construction. Then, in July, IHR was burned to the ground. I offered my services to take revisionism to the public. I was received with open arms.
I began to earn $1,500 a month. I was in a position, if I was very careful, of killing two birds with one stone—earning something of a living and taking revisionism to the people. My wife was still cleaning houses. We got by so long as we all lived together. We traded off taking care of Mother. It never occurred to us to put her in a home, as they say. We had a home and she was there and so were we.
Beginning in the mid-1970s real estate went through the ceiling, and so did rents. By the mid-1980s it had become near to impossible to find a three-bedroom house or apartment, which is what we needed, in Hollywood or Los Angeles that we could afford. I never knew how long I was going to be retained by IHR. Elizabeth wanted to get rid of me very early on. I couldn’t take a chance on returning to construction, on damaging the spine again. We decided to stay where we were and try to put aside some of the income my wife brought in.
In 1985 we got pregnant. Technically the apartment had only one bedroom but there was a little “sewing room” in the back. Mother slept in the bedroom. Magaly, who was a young teenager then, slept in the sewing room, while I took the table out of the dinning room and built a wood platform there and that’s where the newly arrived Paloma slept with her parents. And that’s how we lived the next three years while I kicked off the media project and talked to radio and TV reporters from one end of the country to another. That’s how we were still living when I put the first little classified ads in college newspapers announcing access to revisionist scholarship.
Meanwhile, it was about this time that the first reports surfaced in the press about an "estate" being left to IHR. And it was about this time that Carto bought a multi-acre estate of his own in North San Diego County and built a chain link fence around it topped with barbed wire and bought his wife a Cadillac.
In 1989 we were asked to leave the apartment we were living in so the owner could sell the building. We’d had unexpected medical expenses for Paloma and myself and of course we had no insurance. And, foolishly I suppose, I had put my own money (my wife’s) into revisionism, trying one thing after another in an attempt to discover what would work better than what was already beginning to work pretty well.
In the event, we moved here to Visalia. I had to borrow $200 from a Mexican laborer to make the final trip in a rented truck. A year later when I tried to pay him back he wouldn’t take the money. He said there’s a time when everybody needs help, even old gringos. Here we live in a three bedroom, 1960s tract house. The rent is $695 a month, plus utilities and all the other usual stuff. Mother’s window looks out over a small park. She’s ninety-four years old now. She’s very tired, but she’s in good humor and we’re taking care of her just as we have for the last twenty-three years. Paloma is nine. Her school is on the other side of the park and Mother can watch her one grand child walk to school in the morning and walk back in the afternoon with her friends.
My wife hasn’t worked since we came to Visalia, though she’s looking for work again now. So is Magaly, who is going to college, working for me two days a week, and already has one part-time job on the weekends. If my wife does go to work outside the house, most of the responsibility for taking care of Mother will rest on me . I have a wire connecting her bedroom to the garage where I type and use the telephone, and I’ll go back and forth. I go back and forth now but my travel time will increase considerably if she and I are alone all day.
These last fifteen years are what the Cartos want to pass off to you and to everyone they can reach through their connections as me living off “my old mother’s pension and whatever I can cadge from my wife’s earnings sweeping floors and doing windows.” I see the last fifteen years as something very different. Maybe I’m too blind to see the truth.
Paragraphs 17 & 18:
Willis Carto never gave me a dime. I never expected him to. He never put a dime into CODOH. I never asked him to. The IHR has always supported me. I supported the IHR from the beginning. We both did the best we could. The IHR never put any money into CODOH. It was always up to me to come up with the ideas, organize the project, raise the funds, and carry the project out to is conclusion. That’s how it is today. Carto wants to undermine your confidence in me and in CODOH. With some of you he will be successful. No hard feelings. I know how difficult it is to trust a man you don’t know, working on a project whose benefits you have no concrete way to measure.
Nevertheless, here I am. I need your support to carry on the Campus Project in the fall, to help pay off the debts I’ve accumulated over the last seven months, and to help keep me alive while I finish Break His Bones. One way or another, I’m going to keep on truckin’.
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Bradley R. Smith|
|Title:||The Willis Carto Letter|
|Sources:||Smith's Report, no. 24, June/July 1995, pp. 1-8|
|First posted on CODOH:||Sept. 21, 2015, 3:51 a.m.|