The New York Times printed an apology and paid $114,000 in damages to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former PM Lee Kuan Yew, for an article their lawyer called “libelous,” Reuters reports.
The offending article, “All in the Family,” a look at Asian family politics, appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Times‘ global paper.
The Singapore politicians’ lawyer, Davinder Singh, said to Reuters that the Times paid damages and lawyer fees to the pair.
He said it was in breach of an undertaking made by both the publisher of the IHT and Bowring in 1994 that they would not make further similar defamatory allegations to those made in an article by Bowring in the IHT in that year called “The Claims about Asian Values Don’t Usually Bear Scrutiny,” for which the IHT and Bowring also paid damages and costs to the three leaders.
Here’s the Times‘ apology, printed today:
In 1994, Philip Bowring, a contributor to the International Herald Tribune’s op-ed page, agreed as part of an undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore that he would not say or imply that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had attained his position through nepotism practiced by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring nonetheless included these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not achieve his position through merit. We wish to state clearly that this inference was not intended. We apologize to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for any distress or embarrassment caused by any breach of the undertaking and the article.
It’s interesting that the paper is apologizing for violating the terms of an agreement that its contributor would not suggest that nepotism was in play during a father-son political succession, rather than addressing the factual merits of such a suggestion.