NEW YORK – An editor who wrote a controversial email explaining she rejected a proposal to publish a book by the platoon mates of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on political grounds has been dismissed, according to her company.
But Paul Olsewski, vice president for publicity for Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, insisted to WND that Durand was not fired because of the email.
“Sarah Durand was part of a planned editorial downsizing that took place on Monday,” he wrote in response to a WND query. “To say otherwise or connect is categorically wrong.”
In the email to veteran Hollywood movie producer Bettina Viviano, who is handling the book’s movie rights, Durand said she feared the account of Bergdahl’s exploits might serve the interests of conservatives opposed to President Obama.
Bergdahl is the U.S. Army sergeant freed earlier this year after spending close to five years in Afghanistan as a Taliban captive. He was let go in exchange for the release of five top Taliban terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay.
“I thought about this all weekend, and basically, I’m not sure we can publish this book without the Right using it to their ends,” she said.
“I can understand that—I’m a Progressive and still feel that something’s fishy here. Releasing those 5 terrorists just doesn’t smell right to me.”
In an interview with WND, Viviano said she was “floored” by what Durant put into writing.
“I’ve been in this industry for 30 years,” Viviano said, “and I never thought any serious book editor would ever be so unprofessional. Here we have an important story for Americans to hear, and it might not reach the public because of someone’s personal political feelings for Obama. It blew my mind. I looked at the email and said, ‘Are you kidding?’”
Durand also referred to “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” a book co-authored in 2004 by the author of this news report and published by Regnery during the 2004 presidential campaign.
Her email continues:
But the Conservatives are all over Bergdahl and using it against Obama, and my concern is that this book will have to become a kind of “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” book—or at least it’s best published by an imprint who will handle that side delicately. I understand that these guys want the book to be about being on the ground looking for Bergdahl…but there’s that frustration, that resentment, etc, that the Right wants to see in a book. Do the 6 guys acknowledge that that element is inherently part of a book? I’m just not sure how to get around it.
Viviano said Atria had not yet been shown a formal written book proposal.
“We happened to get on the phone with Sarah Durand, and she just heard the verbal pitch from these six guys who were literally in the trenches with Bergdahl,” Viviano explained.
“What they had to say was breathtaking enough, and there’s so much new material that has been held back from the media to release in the book. On the phone, Sarah was saying, ‘Oh, that’s amazing,’ and, ‘Thank you so much for your service to our country,’ and, ‘It was an honor speaking with you,’ and I thought she was being very receptive.”
Viviano explained the phone conversation with Durand occurred just prior to the July 4 weekend.
“Then on that Monday morning, Durand sent an email, and why she put it in writing, I don’t know. It’s so unbelievable, but she put into writing that she was going to pass because she did not want to ‘Swift Boat’ Obama.”
An astonished Viviano said she expects “a certain amount of bias in the media, but I never thought that a credible editor would allow personal politics to prevent a publishing house of national repute from being published a story that has to do with the public’s right to know the truth about Bergdahl.”
“I was apoplectic when I saw her email. I never saw this coming,” she said.
Viviano explained that very few publishers have heard in detail about the project, and the book proposal is still in the process of being drafted.
“We’ve taken the position with this project that it isn’t about politics,” Viviano said. “For all I know, the six soldiers telling their story about Bergdahl might be Democrats. The story they have to tell is huge, and it deserves to be in the public. For the film, it’s a story of ‘Lone Survivor’ meets ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ and it’s an action adventure story.”
The literary agent on the book project is well-known, Joel Gotler, and Richard Grenell at Capitol Media Partners is handling the public relations for the project. Grenell is a former Bush administration official who served briefly as a national security spokesman for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential campaign.
WND Books has independently expressed an interest in seeing the book proposal and possibly making an offer to publish the book.