Here is one of those seemingly difficult dilemmas for which, upon reflection, there is but a single moral choice.
You are an editor of an internationally renowned peer-reviewed medical journal whose primary capital is trust among its readers. This trust is built upon over two centuries of publishing articles related to medical research and news. One day, you learn that two primary authors of a politically charged article you published have been peddling neo-Nazi antisemitic conspiracy theories. What do you do?
If you chose distancing your publication from the authors, apologizing to your readers, and informing the authors they will not be published in your journal again, you would be taking a strong stand for decency.
If, however, you are Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet since 1995, you choose to dig in your heels, deny the obvious, and tell a journalist for a major newspaper, “It’s utterly irrelevant. It’s a smear campaign.”
This is not a hypothetical situation. Two of the main authors of the July 2014 “An Open Letter for the People of Gaza” in The Lancet (which carried 24 signatories) promoted a video made by American white supremacist David Duke. The two are Drs. Paola Manduca and Swee Ang.
That these authors have been peddling in antisemitic conspiracy theories is clearly substantiated. But there is no sign that Horton will take the moral step of distancing himself and The Lancet from them, remove the “Open Letter” from The Lancet’s website, and apologize to The Lancet’s readers and the medical community.
If he continues this stonewalling, The Lancet’s legacy will be as defenders of the promoters of vile antisemitic bigotry of the worst kind.