Cindy Sheehan has denied that she wrote certain parts of the March 15, 2005, letter that was e-mailed to Nightline in her name. This was the letter quoted in Slate's Aug. 15 Fighting Words column. Specifically, Sheehan claimed that her letter was doctored after the fact to include anti-Israel language. Here is the controversial passage:
Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full well that my son, my family, this nation and this world were betrayed by George Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agendas after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy … not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy.
Was the letter doctored? Or did she write the anti-Israel language in it?
In March, after participating in a Nightline town hall meeting, Cindy Sheehan wrote a letter and e-mailed it to James Morris—an anti-Zionist activist—who forwarded it at her request to Nightline Executive Producer Tom Bettag. Sheehan admits this, and Nightline spokesperson Emily Lenzner has confirmed that Bettag received Sheehan's e-mail via Morris on March 15.
On Aug. 15, Anderson Cooper asked her about the anti-Zionist statements contained in the letter, and she denied having made them. Sheehan then claimed that Morris doctored her Nightline letter. On Aug. 17, she wrote in her blog:
Another "big deal" today was the lie that I had said that Casey died for Israel. I never said that, I never wrote that. I had supposedly said it in a letter that I wrote to Ted Koppel's producer in March. I wrote the letter because I was upset at the way Ted treated me when I appeared at a Nightline Town Hall meeting in January right after the inauguration. I felt that Ted had totally disrespected me. I wrote the letter to Ted Bettag [sic] and cc'd a copy to the person who gave me Ted's [sic] address. I believe he changed the email and sent it out to capitalize on my new found notoriety by promoting his own agenda.
[Note: Sheehan misremembered when she said that she cc'd it. Nightline and Morris both confirm that she sent the letter to Morris, who forwarded it to Bettag.]
Sheehan subsequently implied, through a spokesperson at Fenton Communications, that Morris had hacked into her e-mail. Later, Fenton Communications and Sheehan backed off the hacking claim, but both maintain that the words in the letter about Israel are not her own. For his part, Morris denies having tampered with the letter and confirms that the version circulating is the same as the one she sent to him.
There is other proof that Sheehan wrote the whole letter. After she sent the letter to Morris, Sheehan also e-mailed it to several other people, including Tony Tersch, a retiree living in Thailand, and Skeeter Gallagher. Both belong to a small Internet bulletin board called Bull Yard. Tersch had become her correspondent after contacting her out of personal and political sympathy. At Gallagher's request, Tersch posted Sheehan's letter to Bull Yard on March 17. Here is the letter as it appears there. This is the version that has been circulating, and from which Slate quoted. Tersch has confirmed that he received the letter from Sheehan directly and has stated that he did not doctor the e-mail before posting it.
Unless Sheehan is the victim of an elaborate Morris-Tersch conspiracy quietly put in motion on March 17, months before she became famous, those are her words.—By Blake Wilson