Mark Steyn’s assistant, Chantal Benoît, has sent a response to my earlier item. I reproduce it here in full:
Dear Mr Kennedy,
I did not threaten Professor Pullum with legal action. He sent us an e-mail which was somewhat threatening and then another one 15 minutes later declaring “Your fifteen minutes is now up.” And then after I sent a polite reply he accused us of “brazen” “stonewalling”.
I am French-Canadian so I do not always understand the famous English sense of humour but it was apparent the conversation was becoming argumentative with no end of sight and that is a waste of time for all parties. So I concluded as follows:
“It is up to you whether you wish to escalate this any further. We have invited you to pursue it with Maclean’s and have offered Mark’s resignation if they agree with you. But, given the intemperate nature of your e-mails, I think it would be better if you spoke to your lawyer and we will refer him to ours.”
As you know, Maclean’s did not agree with Professor Pullum. Mark credited the Professor for the only thing he “stole” from him — the technical term for the missing definite article, which I discovered via a Welsh link to Professor Pullum’s site.
Everything else Professor Pullum and his co-writer accuse him of “stealing” are points others have made. Two of the three posts Professor Pullum claims were “plagiarized” were never seen by anyone in this office until the Professor brought them to our attention. In the most ridiculous of Professor Pullum’s accusations, he accuses Mark of “stealing” an observation on the meaning of Leonardo da Vinci’s name that Mark first made on the BBC in 1994. His co-author is now claiming Mark steals jokes from Professor Pullum. We’re happy for any scientists to arrange controlled studies with readers and random sampling of side-by-side pieces to test this proposition.
Mark did not, as you put it, “get pissed”, “get wild” or “call a lawyer”. Having worked in Fleet Street, he only gets pissed in the British sense. Instead, he offered to resign from Maclean’s if they thought the Professor’s charges had merit. They did not. But, as you know, Mark writes for a wide variety of publications from The Atlantic Monthly to Hawke’s Bay Today in New Zealand. You are a widely respected media commentator. If you wish to take up the Professor and his co-author’s accusations with the publisher and editor-in-chief of any of those newspapers and magazines and they agree with the Professor, then Mark will resign from each of those publications, too. For an e-mail or two, you can have the satisfaction of ridding the world of a notorious right-wing hack.
With best wishes to you, and thank you for your profile, about which we still receive many amusing letters.
Assistant to Mark Steyn
If either Geoffrey Pullum or Mark Liberman wishes to respond, Media Nation will be happy to add that as well.
Update: Jeff wonders whether I believe Chantal Benoît really exists — or, for that matter, Tiffany Cole, another Steyn assistant, with whom I exchanged e-mails in 2004. Answer: No, probably not, although it hadn’t previously occurred to me that Steyn was lame enough to engage in such a ruse. But if he actually does employ a Chantal Benoît, I hope it’s this one.
Update II: OK, that was too flip. I’ve done some poking around with Switchboard and Intelius and can report that there’s a Tiffany Cole in the same New Hampshire town where Steyn lives, as well as several people named C. Benoit who are nearby. Funny, though. Two years ago a couple of bloggers who call themselves the Brothers Judd defended Steyn, and poked fun at me, for supposedly being naive enough to believe in the existence of Cole and Benoît. So, for what it’s worth, this cuts both ways.