Sun editor should retract his libel of Thomas Jefferson by even mentioning him in the same column with Bill Clinton

I seldom actually “read” Brian Greenspun’s column in the Las Vegas Sun section of the Sunday newspaper. I’m not into masochism. I usually “scan” it to see if anything jumps out.

Brian Greenspun

Today’s screed seems to suggest that leaders who have extramarital affairs should not resign. I think. It is not always easy to tell what his point is.

In the process he mentions a number of serial philanderers, including his old pal and frequent houseguest Bill Clinton, whom he refers to only as WJC, and implies the nation would be worse off if they had resigned in the face of allegations — and the occasional DNA-based proof-positive — of an illicit affair or two or more.

Greenspun writes:

“We can start with Thomas Jefferson. Remember him? He was a really big deal when it came to writing the Declaration of Independence. Oh yes, he was the third president of the United States, made the Louisiana Purchase, founded the University of Virginia, started the Lewis and Clark expedition (and we all know what happened with that little excursion) and did so much more at a time when our country needed leadership like his.

“Did I mention his relationship with the slave, Sally Hemings, and the children he was supposed to have fathered with her? How do you think that would have played 200 years ago if they had an Internet? He would have been forced to resign, and where would we be now?”

Internet? What the putative editor of the Sun insert seems to be oblivious to is that the fledging nation had hundreds of newspapers — who do you think published the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers? — and a populace that was far more literate than today’s.

Newspaper writer James Callender — whom I decline to describe as a journalist, any more than I would Greenspun — wrote extensively about the rumors that whispered that Jefferson had an affair with Sally Hemings.

Callender, who was imprisoned under the Sedition Act during John Adams’ term as president, admitted writing lies about Adams to get Jefferson elected. In fact he shouted as much in front of the White House when he demanded that Jefferson grant him the job of postmaster of Richmond, Va.

Ignored by Jefferson, Callender turned his allegations of philandering onto the third president. (OK, he was correct when he accused Alexander Hamilton of having an affair with Marie Reynolds. Hamilton admitted as much and that may have cost him a shot at the presidency.)

According to Eric Burns’ book “Infamous Scribblers,” Callender wrote of Jefferson in 1802 in the Richmond Recorder, a Federalist paper:

“It is well known that the man, whom it delighteth the people to honor, keeps, and for many years past has kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is SALLY. The name of her eldest son is TOM. His features are said to bear a striking resemblance to those of the president himself. The boy is ten or twelve years of age. His mother went to France in the same vessel with Mr. Jefferson and his two daughters. The delicacy of his arrangement must strike every person of common sensibility. What a sublime pattern for an American ambassador to place before the eyes of two young ladies! …

“The allegation is of a nature too black to be suffered to remain in suspense. We should be glad to hear of its refutation. We give it to the world under the firmest belief that such a refutation never can be made. The AFRICAN VENUS is said to officiate as housekeeper at Monticello. When Mr. Jefferson has read this article, he will find leisure to estimate how much has been lost or gained by so unprovoked attacks upon J.T. Callender.”

He admits the revenge motive in the article. Besides, the Tom he refers to was later proven to not be a son of Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson

It was widely reported that 1998 DNA tests of descendants of Hemings’ youngest son, Eston, “proved” Jefferson was Eston’s father.

But, according to a July article in The Wall Street Journal by Robert Turner, based on the findings reported in the book “The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission,” the DNA tests merely showed that one of more than two dozen Jefferson males was probably Eston’s father.

Turner writes that at least seven Jefferson men — including the president — were at Monticello the summer of 1807 when Hemings conceived that son.

The author points out:

“A more plausible candidate is Thomas Jefferson’s younger brother, known at Monticello as ‘Uncle Randolph.’ An 1847 oral history titled ‘Memoirs of a Monticello Slave’ noted that when Randolph visited Monticello, he would ‘come out among black people, play the fiddle and dance half the night.’ Surviving letters establish that Randolph was invited to visit Monticello less than two weeks before the start of Eston’s likely conception window. Randolph had five sons in their teens and 20s who also carried Jefferson DNA.”

According to Burns’ book, the National Intelligencer refused to publish Callender’s allegations. Instead its editor reported that he had “determined not to disgrace the columns of a Paper that entertains a respect for decency and truth, by republishing the infamous calumnies and vulgarities of a man who has forfeited every pretension to character.”

There is no proof Thomas Jefferson had a son by one of his slaves. In fact, the evidence points elsewhere. Even at the time, Jefferson’s Federalist enemies Adams and Hamilton rejected Callender’s libel because they knew the characters of both men.

I call on Greenspun to retract the infamous calumnies and vulgarities he has printed about an honorable president, ambassador and author of so many founding principles.


31 comments on “Sun editor should retract his libel of Thomas Jefferson by even mentioning him in the same column with Bill Clinton

  1. Steve says:

    We have elevated propriety to such a level in our politics this country will never be able to get the best and brightest because we have to look among the pool of humans for candidates. There are very few who meet all the societal requirements to run for office today.
    Obama beat back the drug use requirement that would have sunk Clinton back in the day.
    Even as the Republican candidates were all weak this cycle, Herman Cain would have been a much better opponent to Obama.
    This country is going to have to allow for personal lives, or its going to end up with even more lackluster leadership than we are seeing now.
    In fact the only people who can run under these requirements are the ones who are able to hide it from scrutiny the best or those who never did anything off color their whole lives. So we are hiring scam artists or absolutely boring people who will obviously take zero risks in life.

    Nice choices.

  2. Vernon Clayson says:

    Not to worry about what’s in the Sun, similarly oblivious people have compared Obama to Lincoln and even JFK, who in the hell knows why in either instance? Whatever people may think the reason Petraeus resigned was, it wasn’t the affair with that silly woman, it was about the debacle in Benghazi. If the media had spent one-quarter of the time investigating the killings there as they have on sordid romances that seem to titilate them, they might have come up with the facts that Obama and the government are involved in a cover-up of monstrous dimensions.

  3. Sorry, Steve, all the time I was reading your comment about not being able to find people who were not drug users or philanders, the name Mitt Romney was running through my mind. I wager 80 percent of voters had no knowledge of Obama’s choom gang days. That is the fault of a compliant and complicit press.

  4. Athos says:

    Hank Greenspun must be turning in his grave. But enough of ungrateful sons that live off the industry of their fathers (kinda like America today, wouldn’t you say?)

    What a great article by Glenn Cook in the RJ Viewpoint, today, Tom! This young man gives me hope. Is he the real deal? Did you train and/or hire him? If so, thank you.

  5. Steve says:

    Mitt, being ultra rich, was easily tainted by the left. This too is a failure in that it seems many in our country cannot accept success as a good thing. Its leading us to Kurt Vonnegut’s vision of the future.

    I was only adding to your words cause you nailed it so well on Greenspun’s words. As in, does it really matter if Jefferson was a human being with faults? He still did great things for this country. Today he would not have had a chance in a Greenspun media world.
    Greenspun is symptomatic of the national media.

    Athos, Glenn Cook IS good and compared to Sebelius has a skin thick as cowhide.

  6. I like to think I had something to do with Glenn’s career.


  7. “Americans are like a rich father who wishes he knew how to give his sons the hardships that made him rich.”     — Robert Frost


  8. Steve says:

    The only way to do that is to let them fail.
    What happened to Hostess is what should have happened to GM and Chrysler.
    Any bets on how fast someone else with fewer encumbrances starts selling a bunch of the Hostess cakes?

  9. nyp10025 says:

    Yup – that is the Republican position: GM and Chrysler should have liquidated.

  10. Steve says:

    Look at this headline.

    For Nyp it should be obvious what this means even from the words in the link he will not follow.

    If that did happen to GM and Chrysler another would have come along and made something grow from the ashes. Enjoy the Twinkies, Nyp.

  11. nyp10025 says:

    Yup – that is the Republican position: GM and Chrysler should have liquidated.

  12. Of course. Govt shouldn’t pick and choose who gets bailed out.


  13. Steve says:

    Not to mention the banks too big to fail….

  14. Rincon says:

    The same logic should apply to the banks, of course. Unfortunately, that leaves us with a conundrum. If we allow banks or auto manufacturers to become “too big to fail”, it’s certainly possible that the consequences of failing to bail them out could prove drastic. The administration came under a great deal of criticism for allowing Lehman Brothers to crash and burn because of the financial carnage that followed. Would our recession have been worse if the banking industry had not been bailed out? Unfortunately, no one, especially the economists, knows. So do we allow banks to keep growing (as we are now) or should we limit their growth?

  15. Steve says:

    Twinkies will point the way if the government stays out of it.

  16. dave444 says:

    You may call and call and call for in the end the call will fall on deaf ears and
    hopefully we will never hear from the one called on again.

  17. Rincon says:

    As Lehman Brothers proved, banks differ from Hostess. No one blinked when Hostess went bankrupt. The collapse of Lehman Brothers quickly balooned out of control and is credited as the trigger for the recession. From what I’ve read, economists at the time predicted a cascade of bank failures if the government did nothing. Were they right or wrong?

    I think probably right because our financial system as it is now is a house of cards. Faith that loans will be repaid is the only force that allows banks to operate. I’m sure there’s a tipping point. If enough banks fail, the rest are doomed also. The laws enacted after the depression seemed to work well until we dismantled them a dozen or so years ago. Perhaps they actually worked.

    I think the best approach would have been to avoid the excessive use of credit instead of encouraging it as we have (e.g., mortgage interest deduction, tax free status of profits from sale of a home). In addition, no bank should be permitted to get so large so that if it fails, it threatens the financial system.

  18. Rincon says:

    One more thing. Canada and Australia have essentially not been affected by the recession. Both have more stringent banking laws than we do.

  19. Steve says:

    Rincon nailed it. I have some friends in Calgary. They are really enjoying the new exchange rates.

  20. nyp10025 says:

    “New exchange rules”? don’t know to what you are referring.

  21. Steve says:

    Nyp does not read, or only reads selectively.


    New exchange RATES. You money man from Wall Street.

  22. nyp10025 says:

    Ah. Got it. They think the dollar is too low vis a vis the loony? It is higher than it was this time a year ago.

  23. Athos says:

    How about a little “Canadian Bacon”?

    Oh wait. John Candy is no longer available.

    Shame. It’s just a “Strange Brew”!

  24. Steve says:

    They like it much better than a few years ago…but not so happy as they were a few months ago.

  25. The question of whether or not there should have been bank bailouts is rendered moot if the federal government merely followed the organic Constitution, whose legitimately delegated powers do not include such things. Not that anyone cares anymore, anyway. Certainly the two major party presidential candidates never debated it…

  26. nyp10025 says:

    Is the “organic Constitution” something I can get at Whole Foods?

  27. Yes, but it’s vastly overpriced…better to get it here:

    Click to access citizen.pdf

  28. Steve says:

    Winston, Nyp has a reading comprehension problem, see above. This explains many of his comments on many of these blogs.

  29. nyp10025 says:

    For my sins, I actually followed the link. Jury nullification, and other nutjob stuff.

  30. […] Though this bit of calumny is widely circulated and believed today, it is probably not true, according to researchers. […]

  31. […] Richmond newspaper story was written by the notorious slanderer James Callender, who was imprisoned under the Sedition Act during John Adams’ term as second president. He […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s