New York Times columnist Bill Keller addressed the backlash from readers over his op-ed about a cancer patient on Monday.
Keller wrote about Lisa Bonchek Adams, a woman who has been writing and tweeting about her battle against advanced cancer, on Sunday. He seemed to question Adams' approach to dealing with her illness, and the way she has shared her experiences with the public.
In an interview with public editor Margaret Sullivan, Keller acknowledged that some of the responses to his piece have been "raw," calling Twitter "a medium [that] encourages reflexes rather than reflection." He went on to clarify his original comments:
I tried to be clear in the column that I respect Lisa Adams’s choices, and I meant it. I wish every cancer victim could have those options – to fight with all the resources of medicine, or not. By living her disease in such a public way, by turning her hospital room into a classroom, she invites us to think about and debate some big, contentious issues.
I think some readers have misread my point, and some – the most vociferous – seem to believe that anything short of an unqualified “right on, Lisa!” is inhumane or sacrilegious. But I’ve heard from readers who understood the point and found it worth grappling with.
He also addressed his wife Emma's recent piece about Adams in the Guardian, which has since been removed from the website. He said that he learned about Adams through his wife, and that the two approached the subject from "different angles."
Sullivan refrained from taking sides on Monday, but noted that she believes "there are issues here of tone and sensitivity" raised by Keller's piece. "The Times should consider publishing some opposing points of view, possibly in the form of an Op-Ed column from a contributor," she wrote, citing readers' complaints about the post.