This essay appeared a few days after Emily Flitter’s A1 story about me. I’d already been suspended when it came out. It appeared on the second page of the paper and is part of a series showing the work journalists at The New York Times do “behind the scenes.” It also features a great deal of Ms. Flitter’s personal opinions about the story – and my case.
It is really fiction – from the bizarre and dark headline to Ms. Flitter’s random thoughts. Most troublingly, it accepts as fact elements from the first story that remain debatable.
When I met with Ms. Flitter last summer, after this and the first story had appeared, she basically said she whipped this up at the request of editors. It is written in the first person. I was not given a chance to comment or weigh-in before publication.
A Perfect Town’s Open Secrets
By Emily Flitter The New York Times Published on March 28, 2018
Lake Oswego, Ore., is a tiny grid of low, clean buildings wedged into the apex of the Willamette River and the eponymous, oblong lake. It looks like something a model train might trundle through, the crisp white buildings and black rooftops encircled with perfect pine trees. xClarification: Doesn’t this read like something from a short story? It’s a classic description of a small town written by someone from the big city. This narrative, written in first-person, falsely suggests that the contents of this story are true and verified. It’s one of the wealthiest and most desirable of Portland’s suburbs, with a population of 38,945 at the 2016 census.
The little parking lot behind the coffee and pastry shop that opens early is crammed with luxury sedans and S.U.V.s by 7:30 on weekday mornings. Inside, parents on their way to work call out jolly greetings. Women in exercise gear huddle over coffee cups. Anyone who goes for milk or sugar meets the brittle clippings from Lake Oswego’s chatty weekly newspaper taped to the wall above the napkin dispenser. These stories feature local high school athletes or chronicle the cafe’s own growth and its embrace by the community. It seems impossible to remain a stranger in Lake Oswego for long.
I spent less than a week xClarification: Interesting she feels the need to say how little time she spent in Lake Oswego to report her story about me. This story relies on the reporting of her first article as if it were all correct – which it is not. I was not given an opportunity to comment on this article – a basic and fundamental tenet of journalistic fairness. there, reporting a story that ended up on Thursday’s front page, but I quickly began to wonder what living in Lake Oswego felt like for the women whose stories I heard as I gathered information about Douglas Greenberg, a Morgan Stanley wealth manager with a 15-year history of alleged abuse. They lived in that same tiny town. And they each endured similar stretches of instability during which, according to the court records xAccording to public records request, Ms. Flitter never requested these court documents. and social media messages I reviewed, there was violence and terror at home. xMajor Error: No one was subjected to violence, much less four different women. You will notice that there is no attribution here. After they fled, there was pounding on their front doors. There were letters and packages left on their front steps. xMedium Error: This is certainly misleading. There was no pounding on doors and I left gifts for one ex’s children on the street in front of their house, which I now recognize was a mistake. There was nothing else. There were surprises — messes left in their vandalized cars. Wary shopkeepers were warned by an anonymous caller that the women were untrustworthy thieves. xMedium Error: I honestly have no idea what this is about, I never vandalized cars or made anonymous phone calls. If the reporter had done even basic research, she would have found that these claims were not substantiated by law enforcement or any other authorities. When I asked Flitter for attribution, her response was: “I’m not sure that I certainly didn’t say that in the story but off the top of my head I would not say that all 4 women or 3 women said that, it might have just been just one of them.” Thus, it appears she obtained these false allegations from her main source for the articles: my ex-wife, the only instigator of these fabrications.
All of this happened in a place where things look destined to remain orderly and calm. And if they don’t, the town is almost certain to find out about them. I was told over and over again that in Lake Oswego, there are very few secrets. xClarification: Again, is this journalism or a fictionalized short story?
Information gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows nearly 30 percent of women in the United States and 10 percent of men experience abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. Other research has shown getting away from the abuse isn’t easy, especially for women. It’s a delicate dance of financial and social disentanglement. xClarification: These numbers have nothing to do with me but convict me by association. This is a transparent attempt by the reporter to persuade her readers that the false and misleading allegations against me are true.
I imagined xClarification: Is this journalism or fiction? what it must feel like to experience such distress at home, when home means what it means in Lake Oswego: not just a familiar house and yard, but a community so close-knit it’s impossible to stay there and avoid a chance encounter. And I began to wonder how life in the town could go on just like always, after such a momentous change at home.
Each of the women I learned about xClarification: Ms. Flitter’s phrasing is very careful, because she only met and spoke to one of the women: my ex-wife Traci Williams. The rest of this short story just lays out Ms. Flitter’s fictional narrative and opinion. Notably, three of the four women still live in Lake Oswego. had to find a way to escape — from her abusive relationship, if not from Lake Oswego itself — and to quell the deluge of negative attention that followed. To varying degrees each did.
After that, though, there was still the town. At high school football games, they would still have to brace themselves for the occasional encounter with their abuser. There were still the local parades, the pancake breakfasts, the country club dinners and the early morning StarCycle classes. Behind the “Pleasantville” exterior were gossip, warnings, fear.
As I got to know the place, I began to wonder where true sanctuary might lie for the victims of abuse. Can it ever be closer than a distant and unfamiliar new city? What would it take to change the habits of a local society so the misfortunes of some of its members might be more fully repaired?
I don’t have any answers, but my time in Lake Oswego showed me how abuse can cloak an individual in layers of long-lasting, isolating discomfort. xMajor error: Abuse? For the record, I have never been convicted of any crime. I had a bad divorce with mistakes on both sides, but this paragraph states that abuse occurred – which it did not. She states that she has no answers but then charts a path for the future. I believe I am being defamed here. Leaving the abusive relationship marks the beginning of a long journey back to health and security. Abuse victims need protection, support and attention from their neighbors. It might not be possible to heal on one’s own. It might take the help of a town.