Internal Emails Show Law Journal Rejected Article Because Author Was ‘Incredibly Conservative’

When we discuss liberal bias in the media here at NewsBusters, we usually refer to items on television news programs or stories in newspapers across the country, but left-wing intolerance and bias against those who disagree is present in many other facets of our culture, particularly in academia.

The latest example of this intolerance for dissent comes out of Harvard University where law students there editing a journal declined to publish an article that was submitted because its author was “incredibly conservative” which made the editors uncomfortable, especially since he had done some work in the past for the hated Bush Administration.

The allegation was first reported by David Lat at the Above the Law blog based on some emails he received from a discussion group set up by editors of the Harvard Law School Human Rights Journal. Originally intended to be a private discussion among journal editors, the emails demonstrate a flagrant bias against those who don’t toe the liberal line.

Entitled “A Look Inside the Law Review Sausage Factory -- and Possible Evidence of Bias Against Conservatives,” Lat's article explores the behind-the-scenes process editors and reviewers use to approve or reject articles submitted for possible publication. Lat removed the names of the individuals in the reprinted emails but kept the rest unchanged. It is still definitely not a pretty picture.

Near the end of a lengthy email containing both positive and negative substantive comments about a submitted article, an HHRJ editor stated:

In addition, I am a little concerned based upon [Author D]'s CV. He is incredibly conservative, clerked for [Conservative Justice A], worked in the White House under Bush, questioned [Liberal Justice B] during her confirmation hearings in Congress, and has written critically on [Liberal Justice C] in the wall street journal. Maybe that background isn’t important to all of you and I understand the need to have HHRJ be open-minded buuuuuuut, yeah, doesn’t make me want to take this article.

“I’m sure you’re open-minded, buuuuuuut, yeah, you probably shouldn’t have put that in writing,” Lat responded.

Another editor replied back to this email and confirmed that his/her colleague's concerns were valid:

ok i trust [Editor Y]‘s judgment -- those all sound like major concerns and are enough to reject the article. i’m fine with rejection based on that -- we really need to act quickly on all this.

After the article was rejected, Lat contacted the publication's staff for comment, and Benjamin Fidler and Nicole Summers, editors-in-chief of the HHRJ, responded:

The Harvard Human Rights Journal is committed, first and foremost, to publishing the highest quality scholarship on human rights topics. Our submissions team sacrificed many, many hours of their free time during the semester and over the summer to provide the thorough analysis and reviews that you noted.

Without commenting on the discussion of any particular article, it would be grossly inaccurate to characterize the publication decision for any article as driven by any one factor alone. In particular, we want to stress very strongly that the editors’ agreement or disagreement with an author does not constitute a bar to publication.

That's an odd response considering that, while there may have been some other reasons not to consider the article, both of the editors reviewing it stated that the author's conservative politics played a role in him/her not getting published.

In fact, one might consider that a former Bush admin employee might actually have a very valuable perspective on human rights issues considering that in many ways, President Obama has gone far beyond what many considered the lines of propriety in his prosecution of the war on terrorism such as his routine orders to kill individuals via drone strikes.

Higher Education Media Bias Debate David Lat Harvard Law School Human Rights Journal Harvard University