Robert Scheer denies he talked to James Woods about President Bush.

Published August 5, 2003 11:09PM (EDT)

[Read "Woods on fire," by Amy Reiter.]

I categorically deny that I ever had the vitriolic and inane discussion concerning George W. Bush that James Woods describes, and his reckless claim that I have some personal hatred of Bush in completely baseless. His depiction of me as a potential killer is despicable. As to Woods' nostalgic Hollywood-blacklist-style slur that I am a communist, I will charitably assume, in light of his fevered tone, that he meant columnist.

The reality is, I've been able to write quite critically about presidents, governors and other elected officials over the years, yet maintain civil and even amicable relations with the likes of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. I have never met or interviewed the current president and have no feelings about him personally.

I actually started out thinking Bush could be a decent president, given his record as Texas governor as a supporter of public education and immigrant rights -- and I once wrote a column to that effect. In the years since, I've become more critical, especially of his lying about Iraq and the reasons for going to war. Yet these are political criticisms, not personal.

It was inexcusable for Salon to allow Woods to rant on its site, besmirching me so viciously, and to what end I can't imagine -- entertainment value? Clearly, this was not a case of actual political dialogue, but simply an irresponsible smear job. It is particularly grievous that I was not asked before publication if the meeting in question ever happened, or whether I would like to respond to the inflammatory charges Woods made.

-- Robert Scheer

By Salon Staff

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