ReganBooks publisher Judith Regan has been fired from NewsCorp for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks during a conversation with HarperCollins lawyer Mark Jackson.
During a conversation with Jackson about the slimy new novel, 7, purporting to tell the sins of Mickey Mantle, Regan allegedly listed the members of this cabal (Jackson, like any good lawyer, took notes). They are: Jackson, HarperCollins president Jane Friedman, HarperCollins editor David Hirshey, and the literary agent Esther Newberg.
Funnily enough, I happen to know every member of this cabal but oneâpublishing is a small worldâand so I will add whatever insights I can.
The notes of the Jackson-Regan conversation were provided to the Times by Gary Ginsberg, an executive vice-president at NewsCorp. Gary and I used to work together at George, where, to be frank, he spent more time cozying up to our boss than he did working. (Gary now lists himself as having been the magazine’s “Counsel,” which is untrue.)
In time, he moved on to work at a consulting/lobbying firm, Clark & Weinstockâas he repeatedly said, George didn’t pay enoughâand after a year or so of that, he went to NewsCorp. Gary, who had once worked for Bill Clinton, was always more interested in power and money than in ideology. After John Kennedy’s death, Gary labored successfully to cement a relationship with John’s sister, Caroline.
Gary’s primary role at NewsCorp, so far as I can tell, is that of a consiglieri, a fixerâhe told the New Yorker about brokering a three-hour lunch between Bill Clinton and Rupert Murdochâ which is probably why he was the guy picked to dish to the Times. (And by the way, credit the Times for getting his name out there; in other news organizations, Ginsberg, who prefers to operate behind the scenesâit’s undignified to be seen as the guy spreading the storyâappears to be identified only as a “NewsCorp spokesman.”
Mark Jackson is HarperCollins’ libel lawyer; I sat in a room with him for a couple of days while we went over Harvard Rules with a fine-toothed comb. He’s a lovely guy and an excellent lawyer, and if he says that Judith Regan spoke of a Jewish cabal, then she did. But it’s odd that she’d include him in the sinister group; I could be wrong, but I don’t think Jackson is Jewish.
David Hirshey was my editor for Harvard Rules. He’s also a lovely guy and is a terrific editor. One of his skills is in publicizing books, and he’s known at being particularly good at speaking with the press. He is also the editor of Jane Leavy, who wrote Koufaxâwhat a good book!âand is now working on a serious biography of Mickey Mantle. That may be why Regan included him in her cabal; possibly she suspected him of hostile leaks to the press about her own Mantle book. (I have absolutely no proof of this; it’s just a hunch.)
Jane Friedman is the publisher of HarperCollins; I’ve never met her, but she is not considered a fan of Judith Regan. I mean, who is?
The one wild card in this mixâwhich is to say, the one person not affiliated with NewsCorp or Harper Collinsâis the literary agent Esther Newberg, also known as Lobster Newberg. (Newberg is not one of the better-liked people in publishing.)
As a young graduate of Wheaton College, Newberg was one of Robert F. Kennedy’s “Boiler Girls” in 1968, and she was one of the party girls present at Chappaquiddick in 1969. (She was actually Mary Jo Kopechne’s roommate for the weekend.) She has forever kept her silence about what happened there, and the Kennedy family has rewarded her with access and money; she is the family literary agent, and not long ago lunched at Michael’s with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg to celebrate Schlossberg’s birthday. Newberg’s association with the Kennedy’s is her claim to fame, and probably her claim to relevance; she’s such an unpleasant person that if she didn’t have the Kennedy family tie, she’d be in serious trouble in this town. Then again, if she didn’t have Kennedy connections, she might not be so imperious and abrasive.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I know this from first-hand experience. When I began work on my book, American Son, a memoir about my time at George with John Kennedy, Newberg went on the warpath against me, calling my original editor, spreading nasty rumors about me, smearing my reputation. She helped cost me my first contract with the publisher Little, Brown. Then, after I wrote the book without a publisher and eventually sold the manuscript to Henry Holt, Newberg called people there and tried to torpedo the deal. (She had never, of course, read the manuscript; the point was that this was an unauthorized book about a Kennedy, and Kennedy books were her franchise.)
So why should Newberg allegedly conspire against Judith Regan? Easy: Because Regan published The Other Man, a book by former model Michael Bergin in which he claimed that he had cuckolded John Kennedy by sleeping with his wife, Carolyn Besset. Newberg would have gone postal about that book (which was, to be honest, hideous), and she has a long memory. Lashing out against those whom she considers to have slighted the Kennedy family reputation has become her life’s work.
Newberg and Ginsberg, incidentally, are friends, and talk on Kennedy-related matters, as their access to Caroline Kennedy is professionally and socially valuable to both of them. So Ginsberg might also have had it in for Regan after the publication of The Other Man.
What does all this mean? It’s hard to say. One obvious conclusion is that Judith Regan made some powerful enemies, skilled at working behind the scenesâand, at least in the case of Newberg and Ginsberg, working together. But the fact that those enemies happen to be Jewish has absolutely nothing to do with why they dislike her so.
In trying to publish the O.J. book, Regan gave those enemies an opening; she was weakened. And in then accusing her critics of a Jewish conspiracy, she committed hara-kiri.
It will be very interesting to see what Regan’s promised lawsuit discloses.