President Carter has recently been a hot topic at the White House, but today his name is expected to be mentioned before news executives and owners at the CBS stockholders annual meeting at the Equitable Center in Midtown Manhattan.
A CBS subsidiary, Simon & Schuster, will be accused of damaging the reputation of its parent company by publishing Mr. Carter's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." Carol Greenwald, the treasurer of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a CBS shareholder, plans to criticize the publisher at the meeting.
According to a statement shown to The New York Sun, Ms. Greenwald, who calls Mr. Carter's book "error-filled," plans to ask that a fact-checking system be set up to prevent material errors in books Simon & Schuster publishes and that a code of ethics be adopted for its publishing division.
CBS declined comment, but a spokesman said that if the proposal is raised at the meeting, it is expected that the company would reply.
Since its publication in November, Mr. Carter's book has drawn a storm of criticism for its description of international agreements and borders, as well as for its title likening South African policies to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict. After its publication, 14 advisory board members of the author's Atlanta-based nonprofit think tank, the Carter Center, resigned in protest.
The vice president of corporate communications at Simon & Schuster, Adam Rothberg, said the publisher "is proud that the books it publishes represent a wide and divergent range of viewpoints, and recognizes and accepts that readers may disagree with the facts and opinions as presented by its authors."
In January, ABC News reported that at a talk at Brandeis University, Mr. Carter said he instructed that a sentence in the book that implied that ending Palestinian Arab suicide bombings was tied to Israeli conduct be removed from future editions. But the executive director of Camera, Andrea Levin, said that the book still contains factual errors "that fill page after page."
Books have become a venue for misinformation, Ms. Levin said. To address this issue, Camera sought to locate codes of ethics for publishing nonfiction books, but could not find any, she said.
"Simon & Schuster has a wellearned reputation as a responsible publisher of nonfiction works about many of today's most important and topical issues, with an editorial process that adheres to longaccepted industry standards," Mr. Rothberg said.
Major book publishing houses do not have fact-checking departments. "It's not realistic," the editor in chief of Publishers Weekly, Sara Nelson, said. The call for publishers to have "full-on fact checking" does not make economic sense, she said, as they publish a lot of books. Nevertheless, she said, publishers need to pay close attention to their authors' accuracy.
A professor of journalism at the University of Missouri, Steve Weinberg, who has not read Mr. Carter's book but has written on the issue of accuracy in nonfiction books, said, "Book publishers don't usually take responsibility for what their authors write because the authors are seen contractually as independent agents."
A law professor at Harvard University, Alan Dershowitz, said he thought a code of ethics for publishers was a good idea. Journalists and book publishers want to hold everyone responsible but themselves, he added. Mr. Dershowitz, who reviewed Mr. Carter's book for the Sun in November, said it was "a pack of demonstrable lies. Even Carter recognizes some of them now."
Ms. Levin said she was optimistic in the long term about a code of ethics. "Nonfiction books ought to be accurate. I think the public perceives them to be accurate," she said, adding that it would only benefit the public. If the publisher does not want to fact-check a book, she said, "call it something else — fantasy."
In December, a student newspaper at Emory University, the Emory Wheel, reported that Mr. Carter's press secretary said the book was reviewed for accuracy and that any detected errors would be corrected in subsequent editions.
"One would assume that just as there are fact-checkers at newspapers, major publishing houses also would have fact-checkers to question authors, if necessary," a spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, Kenneth Bandler, told the Sun.
The shareholder meeting comes on the heels of a controversy that erupted last weekend after Mr. Carter was quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as saying President Bush was the worst president in history. Mr. Carter later said his words were "careless or misinterpreted," but the religion editor at the paper said that he quoted the former president accurately.