Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Did NY Times standards editor Greg Brock & public editor Liz Spayd violate Integrity Guidelines? I've asked the paper's attorney who handles employee concerns


On January 31, the Washington Post ran Media outlets choke on Heimlich obituaries by Erik Wemple about my string of successful requests for published corrections for errors in obituaries about my father.

He suggested that the corrections/amendments I got "from some of the biggest names in the news business, over a single news topic" may be a record.

Needless to say, journalists can be reluctant to publish corrections, therefore I was impressed by the professionalism and courtesy I experienced at most of those news outlets.

Then there's the New York Times.

Robert D. McFadden's December 17, 2016 Times obituary about my father included some factual errors along with what I considered to be some reportorial errors.


In response to polite, thoroughly-documented inquiries and my patient follow-ups that dragged on for weeks, I got the bum's rush, first from standards editor Greg Brock and then from public editor Liz Spayd, both of whom refused to discuss any of the facts. They both just told me to take a hike.

So I hiked over to Mr. Wemple at the Post.

After he followed up on my behalf, Mr. Brock was shamed into doing his job -- at least part of it.

That is, the Times published one correction, but failed to address another factual error as well as some reportorial concerns I brought to their attention.

According to the paper’s Guidelines on Integrity
Reporters, editors, photographers and all members of the news staff of The New York Times share a common and essential interest in protecting the integrity of the newspaper. As the news, editorial and business leadership of the newspaper declared jointly in 1998: "Our greatest strength is the authority and reputation of The Times. We must do nothing that would undermine or dilute it and everything possible to enhance it."

...(It) means that the journalism we practice daily must be beyond reproach.

Corrections. Because our voice is loud and far-reaching, The Times recognizes an ethical responsibility to correct all its factual errors, large and small. The paper regrets every error, but it applauds the integrity of a writer who volunteers a correction of his or her own published story. Whatever the origin, though, any complaint should be relayed to a responsible supervising editor and investigated quickly. If a correction is warranted, fairness demands that it be published immediately. In case of reasonable doubt or disagreement about the facts, we can acknowledge that a statement was "imprecise" or "incomplete" even if we are not sure it was wrong
Re: the processing of my corrections request, I wanted to learn if Mr. Brock, Ms. Spayd, or others had violated those or other employee guidelines, so today I sent this inquiry to Marcijane Kraft, an attorney at the paper who handles concerns about employees.

After I receive her response, I'll report it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Complaint re: two Greensboro, NC, apparel companies filed with state Attorney General by London executive

London-based business executive Demi Bender is the daughter of my friend, the formidable medical journalist Marika Sborbos.

Today Demi sent a consumer complaint to the Attorney General of North Carolina about a couple of Greensboro apparel companies.

According to her letter, she ordered merchandise from one of them -- Lotus Leggings -- never got the goods, and the company has ignored her follow-up inquiries.

She also learned that there's apparently a sister company at the same address -- a mailbox at a US Postal station -- called Lulu Tops.

Based on the links to consumer review websites in her letter, both companies appear to have, um, fallen short when it comes to customer satisfaction.

For example, here's a YouTube video posted a year ago called Lulu Tops Took My Money (which includes some lively posted comments).

The Sidebar prides itself as a platform for fashionista consumer advocacy, so I invited Demi to post her complaint here.

I've redacted her e-mail address, but you may send her a tweet here.

Friday, February 3, 2017

For decades PETA president Ingrid Newkirk has campaigned against using animals in medical research, but says she probably owes her life to my father's namesake maneuver -- which was developed using dogs as research models

PETA president and cofounder Ingrid Newkirk and a four-legged friend (source)

Ingrid Newkirk is the well-known president and cofounder of People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which for decades has campaigned against the use of animals in medical research.

Ironically, she says she probably owes her life to medical research in which dogs were used as experimental subjects.

As widely reported, my father died on December 16. A few days ago Ms. Newkirk posted this remembrance on an online web page commemorating my father's life:

Via her introduction to my father's essay in One Can Make A Difference:
I am including Dr. Heimlich as an essayist because I not only admire him and have enjoyed knowing hint personally - he is full of good jokes and clever thoughts and is staunchly opposed to animal experiments - but because he has saved countless people's lives. In fact, while the Heimlich maneuver has saved the lives of celebrities such as Cher, Goldie Hawn, and even former president Ronald Reagan, it also probably saved mine.
One morning I was, as usual, doing too many things at once, dashing about in the office, eating a breakfast sandwich, and putting paper in the copier, when I choked. It was early and only the man who vacuums our carpets was in the building, somewhere downstairs. I suddenly realized how difficult it would be, even if I could find hint quickly, to get him to understand that my airway was blocked, that I couldn't breathe. Drawing on what I remembered of Dr. Heimlich's advice, I thrust myself forward, with force, over a chair. That action dislodged the bit of sandwich and I could breathe again.
Via Pop Goes the Cafe Coronary, my father's first article describing what he then called "the Heimlich method," published in the June 1974 issue of the journal Emergency Medicine (EM):
The procedure is adapted from experimental work with four 38-pound beagles, in which I was assisted by surgical research technician Michael H. McNeal. After being given an intravenous anesthetic, each dog was "strangled" with a size 32 cuffed endotracheal tube inserted into the larynx. After the cuff was distended to create total obstruction of the trachea, the animal went into immediate respiratory distress as evidenced by spasmodic, paradoxical respiratory movements of the chest and diaphragm. At this point, with a sudden thrust. I pressed the palm of my hand deeply and firmly into the abdomen of the animal a short distance below the rib cage, thereby pushing upward on the diaphragm. The endotracheal tube popped out of the trachea and, after several labored respirations, the animal began to breathe normally. This procedure was even more effective when the other hand maintained constant pressure on the lower abdomen directing almost all the pressure toward the diaphragm.

We repeated the experiment more than 20 times on each animal with the same excellent results When a bolus of raw hamburger was substituted for the endotracheal tube, it, too, was ejected by the same procedure, always after one or two compressions.

...Should you use, or learn of anyone, using, the Heimlich method, by the way, please report the results either to EM or to me.
Does Ms. Newkirk owe her life to those four "strangled" beagles? Obviously, that's impossible to determine, but it's certainly a brain teaser.

Here's another puzzler to ponder.

If my father and Mr. McNeal had never conducted the research using the beagles, his namesake maneuver might never have come to be.

As a determined advocate against the use of animals in research, would Ms. Newkirk have preferred that they not have conducted research that may have saved her life and which -- according to Erik Wemple's January 31, 2017 Washington Post article about my recent success obtaining published corrections to errors in a number of my father's obituaries -- has been "credited with saving thousands of people from choking to death..."?

I'm e-mailing that question to Ms. Newkirk with an invitation to provide any additional comment.

Note: I have zero expertise regarding the use of animals in medical research, so I have no positions or opinions on the subject.

Friday, January 20, 2017

My NJ public records lawsuit: Judge Georgia Curio upholds her decision permitting out of state residents (like me) to access public records

Via Judge Won’t Reconsider OPRA Decision, Non-Residents May View Public Records by Karen Knight, Cape May County Herald, January 19, 2016:
A New Jersey Superior Court judge has rejected a motion to reconsider a decision she made that allows out-of-state residents access to public records under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

The Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) filed a motion Nov. 11, 2016, asking Superior Court Assignment Judge Georgia Curio, to reconsider her Oct. 24, 2016, decision because the state Government Records Council (GRC) changed its position, saying it is "proper to deny access to out-of-state requestors."

The EIRC also submitted two court decisions they became aware of after their case was presented to Curio where the judges ruled that out-of-state requestors did not have any rights to the benefits of the Act.

Peter Heimlich, an Atlanta, Ga.-based investigative blogger, filed a lawsuit in June 2016 challenging the EIRC's denial for records filed under OPRA because he was not a state resident.
Attorney C.J. Griffin, of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, represented Heimlich. She specializes in First Amendment law.
Also see Judge: Anyone May Access Records by Karen Knight, Cape May County Herald, October 21, 2016 and I won my NJ public records lawsuit -- here's my attorney's statement, The Sidebar, October 13, 2016.

Congratulations and big thanks to my attorney C.J. Griffin and her associate Michael Zoller!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The BMJ's obit for my father uses the "q" word

Sidebar readers may recall the one-of-a-kind 2010 obituary by Jeanne Lenzer in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) about the unusual career of my father's 30-year colleague, Edward A. Patrick MD PhD, who "claimed that he was the co-developer of the Heimlich manoeuvre, which he referred to as the 'Patrick-Heimlich manoeuvre.'"

More recently, Dr. Patrick turned in many of the mainstream media obituaries of my father, including the New York Times, Reuters, WCPO (Cincinnati's ABC-TV affiliate), and USA Today.

A couple days ago the BMJ published a two-page obituary of my father by Bob Roehr, "an independent biomedical journalist who writes for a variety of trade and consumer publications," according to his online bio.

I had some reportorial questions that I e-mailed yesterday to Mr. Roehr. For example, I was curious why his article (which is behind a subscription paywall) failed to mention Dr. Patrick. I'll blog about that after I receive his answers.

For now, here's a snip that puts into the record a word which publications may have been reluctant to use while my father was alive.

Friday, January 6, 2017

I filed a misconduct complaint against Cincinnati Enquirer editor Peter Bhatia -- here's why (Part II)

Per Part I, on Monday I sent Cincinnati Enquirer news executive Peter Bhatia a list of what I considered seven reportorial errors in veteran Cincinnati reporter Cliff Radel's December 17, 2016 obituary of my father. I also asked him to provide me with the name of the supervising editor on the article.

Also in part I, on Tuesday I fact-checked what appeared to be these factual errors.

Radel claimed that the American Red Cross (ARC) did not use the term "Heimlich maneuver" in their first aid literature because my father demanded that they remove his name. In an e-mail in which I copied Bhatia, I asked the ARC if that was accurate.

Radel also reported that the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver received the Lasker Award. I e-mailed the Lasker Foundation and got a prompt, courteous reply from David Keegan, the organization's Awards Program Director who confirmed Radel got that wrong.

I promptly forwarded Keegan's reply to Bhatia and to Brent Jones, Standards and Ethics Editor at USA Today, which had same-day published a shorter version of Radel's article (which included the Lasker error).

That's when things got interesting.

Subject: Re: request for published corrections
Date: Wed, 4 Jan 2017 19:29:29 +0000

Peter: We will run a correction on the Lasker awards. I would note it was correct that your father won the award. We already fixed the bad headline. Otherwise, we leave you to your blog.

Peter Bhatia
Editor and Vice President, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Ohio editor for the USA TODAY Network

Subject: Re: request for published corrections
Cc:,, Ben Kaufman/Cincinnati CityBeat


Thank you for the heads-up and for the fixes, although I didn't appreciate your snide remark. Why blame me for catching reportorial errors when a lightweight like Cliff was assigned to write an obituary for someone as newsworthy and important as my father? 

In any event, just to confirm re: my Monday inquiry to you.

Based on your recent e-mail, my understanding is that the Enquirer has no intention of correcting the Belle Jacobson error; no interest in addressing Fred Webster's contradiction of my father's dubious tale about the Chinese soldier; and no interest in including anything about my father falsely claiming credit for inventing the esophagus operation.

I also asked you for the name of Cliff's editor on the obit. Can you share that, please?

Finally, re: this from Cliff's article:

The Red Cross’ inclusion of the back slaps offended Heimlich. So, in 1976, he asked the organization to remove his name from their first-aid literature for choking. That’s why the term "abdominal thrusts" is used.
Per my Monday inquiry to you, that last sentence is contradicted by information from the American Red Cross. I have an inquiry to the ARC and will let you know the result.

Cheers, Peter

Subject: Re: request for published corrections
Date: Wed, 4 Jan 2017 20:48:09 +0000

Not sure what was snide. If you took what I said that way there was no intent. In any case, yes, our correspondence is completed.

That tore it.

I don't care how many Pulitzers Bhatia has been associated with.

A journalist and reader's representative doesn't care whether or not his newspaper is providing readers with accurate information and also refuses to disclose the name of a supervising editor?

I should add that last summer a lengthy Enquirer article revisted a 15-year-old story hyping the use of the Heimlich maneuver for drowning rescue, a thoroughly-discredited treatment that has reportedly been associated with dozens of poor outcomes, including kids.

Whose idea was it to revisit this obscure story? I wanted to learn how it got into the paper, who was the supervising editor, and shouldn't the article be appended with a note informing readers that the treatment was unapproved and might injure or perhaps kill someone?

Bhatia and other Enquirer news staff refused to provide me with the name of the supervising editor or to append the article.

Back to Radel's article, you'll recall I copied Bhatia on my fact-checking inquiry to the ARC and clearly Bhatia didn't give a fig how they responded.

A few minutes after I got his "our correspondence is completed" e-mail, I received the ARC's reply on which Bhatia was copied.

I included it in the following e-mail.

Subject: complaint 
Date: Wed, 4 Jan 2017 18:23:46 -0500

Joanne Lipman
Senior Vice President, Chief Content Officer
Gannett Inc.

Dear Ms. Lipman:

This is a complaint against Peter Bhattia of the Cincinnati Enquirer for professional misconduct. Would you please review the following and forward this e-mail to the responsible human resources managers at Gannett and the Enquirer? I would appreciate being copied on those e-mails.

1) In an e-mail two days ago (which I posted on my blog) I brought to Mr. Bhatia's attention a number of reportorial concerns in Cliff Radel's December 17, 2016 obituary of my father, including what appeared to be a string of factual errors.

Per the e-mails below my signature, today I fact-checked and tagged one of those errors -- Mr. Radel incorrectly reported that the Wright Brother and George Washington Carver received the Lasker Award. After I shared that information with Mr. Bhatia -- an e-mail to me from an executive at the Lasker Foundation -- he agreed to publish a correction for that error. He also agreed to correct the headline on Mr. Radel's article which erroneously identified my father as a Cincinnati native. (Per my e-mail to Mr. Bhatia, the headline error was tagged and reported by former Enquirer reporter Ben Kaufman in his most recent Cincinnati CityBeat media watch column.)

However, for reasons that remain unclear, Mr. Bhatia refused to address the other apparent errors I brought to his attention.

Further -- and considerably more disconcerting -- in an e-mail this afternoon he terminated our correspondence despite the fact that in an e-mail a few minutes earlier, I informed him that I had a fact-checking inquiry in to the American Red Cross (ARC) regarding this questionable information in Mr. Radel's article:

The Red Cross’ inclusion of the back slaps offended (Dr.) Heimlich. So, in 1976, he asked the organization to remove his name from their first-aid literature for choking. That’s why the term “abdominal thrusts” is used.
To reiterate, Mr. Bhatia made it clear he did not care how the ARC might respond to my inquiry. In other words, he did not care whether the information in Radel's article was accurate or not.

Shortly after receiving Mr. Bhatia's e-mail terminating our correspondence, I received the following e-mail. Please note that Mr. Bhatia was copied by Mr. Lauritzen.

From: Don Lauritzen
Subject: FW: blogger inquiry
Date: Wed, 4 Jan 2017 21:44:40 +0000

Mr. Peter M. Heimlich:

Please accept our condolences regarding the passing of your father.

Following are responses to your questions.

Throughout history, the American Red Cross has recommended different protocols for removing foreign body obstructions blocking airways based on the most up-to-date science available on First Aid, CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. Our current recommendation is using cycles of 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts to treat conscious choking children and adults. For conscious choking infants, the Red Cross recommends using cycles of 5 back blows and 5 chest thrusts.

The American Red Cross uses the term ‘abdominal thrusts’ in our training materials because it describes the action that people are performing. The term represents the correct medical and generic term used in evidence reviews and guidelines documents. We do not have any record of Dr. Heimlich prohibiting us from using the term ‘Heimlich Maneuver’ and are not aware of the use of the term in any American Red Cross training materials including those developed before 1976.

Thank you.

Don Lauritzen
Communications Officer

American Red Cross
National Headquarters
431 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

Since Mr. Bhatia terminated his correspondence with me, this is to request that you contact a responsible editor at the Enquirer and arrange for a published correction to Mr. Radel's article based on Mr. Lauritzen's e-mail.

2) As you may recall from my correspondence with you last summer, in response to multiple polite requests, without explanation Mr. Bhatia refused to provide me with the name of the supervising editor for this August 18, 2016 Enquirer article, 15 years later: Lifeguard, swimmer recall close call by Brett Milam. 

Today Mr. Bhatia also refused to provide me with name of the editor responsible for Mr. Radel's obituary of my father.

This is to request that you contact a responsible editor at the Enquirer, obtain the names of the supervising editors on those two articles, and that you provide me with those names.

3) In order to determine if Mr. Radel's article requires further correcting, would you also please ask a responsible editor to review the other reportorial concerns about Mr. Radel's article which I brought to Mr. Bhatia's attention and which he refused to address?

4) Finally, this is to request that your office provide me with a determination if Mr. Bhatia's actions are in compliance with Gannett policy.

Thank you for your time/consideration and I look forward to your reply.


Peter M. Heimlich
ph: (208)474-7283


Michael Kilian, The Enquirer
Ben Kaufman, Cincinnati CityBeat

Yesterday Ms. Lipman e-mailed me that she'd turned the matter over to Brent Jones.

Here's the original and the revised headline on Radel's article:


The article is now appended with:

Even though Bhatia was informed by Don Lauritzen, at this writing the false information about the American Red Cross acceding to my father's demands is still in Radel's article.

At this writing, the USA Today version of the obit still includes this error:

Finally, I sincerely appreciated Don Lauritzen's kind condolence note and I promptly e-mailed him a warm thank-you.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I filed a misconduct complaint against Cincinnati Enquirer editor Peter Bhatia -- here's why (Part I)

In e-mails he sent me yesterday, Cincinnati Enquirer editor Peter Bhatia made it clear  that -- and I am not exaggerating -- he did not care whether or not information in a published article was factually correct or accurately reported.

I've never filed a complaint against a journalist, but I thought his behavior merited it, so yesterday I filed a complaint of professional misconduct against Bhatia with Joanne Lipman, senior vice president and chief content officer of Gannett Inc., the Enquirer's parent company.

Here's what happened.

According to a 2015 Enquirer item, "(Bhatia helped) lead newsrooms that won nine Pulitzer Prizes, including (six at the Portland Oregonian). He also is a six-time Pulitzer juror."

Based on that impressive resume, I wanted to solicit and blog his expert opinion about what appeared to be a number of reportorial problems and factual errors in reporter Cliff Radel's obituary of my father in the December 17, 2016 Enquirer, Cincy native Dr. Henry Heimlich dies at 96.

So on Monday I e-mailed Bhatia a thoroughly-doumented inquiry listing seven of my concerns. I also asked him to provide me with the name of the supervising editor on the story.

For example, in his December 22 Cincinnati CityBeat media watch column, former Enquirer reporter Ben Kaufman tagged the headline as inaccurate. My father was born in Wilmington, DE.

But that was a minor glitch compared to other problems I shared with Bhatia, including the bizarre claim that Belle Jacobson MD, my father's business partner in a short-lived New Rochelle, NY, clinic called the Heimlich Medical Group, was my father's personal physician when he was a child.

Radel's article also included:
After graduating from Cornell Medical College in 1943, Heimlich enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Before he could be assigned to a ship, he volunteered to go to China on a mission...

He treated Chinese civilians and soldiers. “One night as the war was coming to an end in 1945, a Chinese soldier was brought to me with a chest wound,” Heimlich said. “I operated on him. But he died in my hands.

“The next day, I was feeling terrible.” Hoping to lift his spirits, he went for a ride on one of the horses assigned to the 12 American GIs. As he rode toward a nearby town, the Navy surgeon crossed paths with an oxcart.

“The cart was carrying the remains of that Chinese soldier,” Heimlich said. His voice quaked with emotion 68 years after the first seeing that cart.

“I never forgot that sight,” he said. “And, I never forgot how he died in my hands.” He wondered if he could have done more. He worried that if he had known more about draining chest wounds, the man might have lived."
As I informed Bhatia, that tale was disputed in an article (for which I was a source), Henry Heimlich: Polarizing Doctor by veteran Cincinnati reporter Lucy May, WCPO Insider Monthly, March 2014:
Heimlich has spoken publicly many times about how a Chinese soldier dying in his arms inspired his invention of the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve years later. He told WCPO he trained Chinese soldiers to form their first-ever medical corps for the guerilla army, an account repeated in his book.

Frederick Webster said he served as assistant to “Doc Heimlich” at Camp 4. Webster said he doesn’t recall the dying soldier or any medical corps training, although he said there were a few weeks where the men’s service there did not overlap.

“You really can’t believe any of the stories the veterans tell you,” said Webster, who is 93 and lives in (Orleans) Vermont. “The Chinese soldiers never seriously needed help.”

Webster told WCPO detailed stories of how Heimlich treated the Chinese and life at the camp.

Heimlich said he doesn’t remember Webster and questioned whether the two men actually served together.

“He doesn’t mean anything to me at all,” Heimlich said.
I didn't expect Radel to have been aware of the information in May's report, but since my father's story had been contradicted two years ago in a mainstream Queen City news source, I was curious to know if Bhatia thought the obituary should be updated to include Webster's version of events.

Radel's article also failed to report that in a March 16, 2003 Sunday Enquirer front page expose (based on research by my wife and me and our outreach to reporter Robert Anglen), Dr. Dan Gavriliu of Bucharest called my father "a liar and a thief" because, for decades my father falsely claimed credit for a surgical procedure Gavriliu invented.

As I informed Bhatia, the Washington Post's obituary for my father included paragraphs about that and credited/linked to the Enquirer expose.

Therefore, it seemed conspicuous that the newspaper that broke the story should fail to mention it in my father's obit.

While waiting for Bhatia's reply, I did some fact-checking of my own.

Date: Tue, 3 Jan 2017 09:52:31 -0500
Subject: blogger inquiry

American Red Cross
Media Relations Dept.

To whom it may concern:

I'd appreciate your help with a clarification, please. If you can get back to me by tomorrow (Wednesday), that would be great. If you need more time, please advise and I'll do my best to accommodate.

Via Cincy native Dr. Henry Heimlich dies at 96 by Cliff Radel, Cincinnati Enquirer, December 17, 2016:

Current (American) Red Cross first-aid protocol for someone who's choking calls for five back slaps first. Then, if needed, follow with five of the maneuver's abdominal thrusts. The Red Cross's  inclusion of the back slaps offended Heimlich. So, in 1976, (Dr. Heimlich) asked the (American Red Cross) to remove his name from their first-aid literature for choking.That's why the term "abdominal thrusts" is used.
According to ARC materials and media reports I've seen, your organization's decision to use the term abdominal thrusts had nothing to do with any demands made by my father.

1) Per my blog yesterday, I brought the matter to the attention of Enquirer editor/VP Peter Bhatia.

2) My wife and I have been invited to write an article about the history of my father's namesake maneuver and we may wish to include this issue.

In order to resolve the matter, would you please provide me with a straightforward, unambiguous statement explaining why the ARC uses the term abdominal thrusts and whether or not input from my father had anything to do with that decision?

Thanks much for your time/consideration and I look forward to your reply.

Cheers, Peter

Peter M. Heimlich
ph: (208)474-7283

Tomorrow in I'll publish the ARC's response, but I won't keep you in suspense.

Radel got it all wrong, probably because, rather than asking the Red Cross, he took dictation from my nonagenarian father who -- and I've credited him for this -- has been punking Enquirer reporters for four decades, most recently last May.

Back to the obit, a version of which was same-day published in USA Today:

Yesterday I e-mailed the Lasker Foundation and asked if/when the Wilbur, Orville, and George Washington Carver received the award.

I received this prompt reply which I forwarded to Bhatia and USA Today's Standards & Ethics Editor, Brent Jones:

Dear Peter,

Neither the Wright Brothers nor George Washington Carver were ever recognized with Lasker Awards.

The Lasker Awards program dates to 1945. The first Basic and Clinical Lasker Awards were given in 1946.

A complete list of Lasker awardees can be found on our website: (and you can search any name using the “search” tool in the top navigation).

Hope that helps.

Best wishes,


David Keegan

Awards Program Director
Lasker Foundation
405 Lexington Avenue, 32nd Floor
New York, NY 10174

And then things got interesting...

Don't miss Part II tomorrow in The Sidebar...

This item has been slightly revised for clarity.